Special Interview with Luca Marchese with Spark Icon
1. From Software Engineer to Machine Learning Teacher to Bio Inspired AI Researcher. What was the SPARK that made you choose this field of Work?
I was a young Software Engineer when I read an issue of the magazine “AI Expert” with introductory articles on Neural Networks, Genetic Algorithms and Fuzzy Logic. From that day I never stopped to study Neural Networks and Learning Algorithms and my first interest became Biologically Inspired Artificial Intelligence.
2. I would call you a “Technology Futurist” as you started your research 22 years back. What made you foresee the whole different World which did not exist then?
I can say that I have been “Technology Futurist” in the last 90’s and first 2000’s when I made feasibility studies for the application of Neuromorphic Chips to context based Internet Search Engines. At the same time I invented the concept of “Neural Server” that was a computer server with neuromorphic-chip coprocessor boards. I realized it with hardware and software but the times were not mature for such a technology. Now it would be called “Brain on the Cloud”.
At that time Neural Networks were a niche technology while Information Technology, Telecommunications and Internet were consolidated and growing technologies. My passion for Neural Networks and my skill in Information and Telecommunications Technology gave me the vision of a future synergy.
3. Switching Career from a Corporate Job to dedicated Full Time Researcher is not Easy. After making the decision, how was your journey? Was it a smooth sail?
AI in the 90’s was in a “winter” time and I had to hold my job of software engineer, making research as consultant almost exclusively for academic or government entities. There was not a business on AI like today.
4. When you were a kid what was the area of work that you said to yourself: “I will do this if I grow up”? What was the inspiration or reason behind it? And, is what you dreamed and what you are now doing the same?
When I was a kid I usually spent my time inventing and constructing electric and electronic devices. My dream was to become an Aerospace Engineer working at NASA. The kid’s dream is different from reality.
5. It takes a lot to be a Researcher. That too for 22 continuous years. You will be the best person for us to learn about Perseverance. How important is it to stick on to decisions taken and work around it?
I do not think to be a great example of Perseverance. I have always had too many ideas running in my mind and due to this fact I often left a project incomplete to follow a new idea: I believe that this has been my major fault.
6. How many times have you been dejected in your life and what is your learning outcome?
Many times! Each time has been a different experience.
Sometime I have learned a lesson but not always.
7. What are your 3 Life Quotes that you would like to share with our audience?
- Follow your dream.
- Do not miss the way you choose.
- Just one thing in life ... which one? You must know it!.
8. What are the Lessons learnt the Hard way in your Life? Can you share it with our Audience?
I believe the third Life Quote. If you can speak with yourself and say “I have spent all my energy for my dream” you are howsoever a winner also if actually you have not realized your dream.
9. You are the author of the first introductory book on Neural Networks in Italian language entirely published on the web and freely available in pdf. This book has been a reference for almost all the Italian University Theses on neural networks and machine learning by 1995. What was the incident that triggered you to do this?
I was writing articles on neural networks simulations with software for a diffused Italian programming magazine. Delays in publications and bureaucracy bored me and one day I decided to make a book with articles not yet published: I published it on the Internet with open access. It has been a great choice.
10. I am just curious to know, if people from film fraternity have approached you for Science Fiction/AI based movies?
11. What will be your advice to the students who want to choose Robotics and AI as their Career? What should they work on to mark themselves as an Outstanding Roboticist?
Never forget that robots have to help mankind and not replace it.
12. What will be your Lessons to the People who want to pursue with Research?
It sounds Fancy, but takes a lot to find something NEW. A real researcher must be “passion inside”: when he puts his career ahead of passion his inventor spirit dies.
13. What do you tell yourself everyday when you look into the mirror?
I could have done a lot more and much better!
14. Can you describe how a typical day looks like in your life as a professional? What are the few habits you recommend everyone to follow everyday?
I'm all day in front of a computer ... I have no suggestions about habits to follow: each one of us is different!
15. “Ignorance is Bliss” How True is this saying to You?
I agree, unless you are very lucky.
16. How do you see the AI World shaping up 5 years from Now? I am sure the advancement of Science 22 Years back to know is really a giant leap. How big will the next leap be?
Much of the advancement in AI as in information technology is due to the advancement of hardware rather than algorithmic research. One year of research on the hardware is worth ten years of algorithmic research or circuit theory: I say this with the awareness of being an algorithmic researcher. Many algorithms used today have been invented from the 1960’s to the 90’s but at that time computers were too slow to run them. At this time, as in the 1980’s, there are exaggerated expectations for the AI and, unfortunately, this fact will cause a rebound. The scenario is different from the 1980’s because now there is Internet that amplifies both negative and positive signals ... it is difficult to predict.
17. How important is it to “BELIEVE” in life? You would have progressed with your research having a base hypothesis, which you would have strongly believed. Can you relate it to life and share your experience with us?
Believing in life is important for every man and woman whatever profession he or she does. if I told you that I devoted myself to research to improve the life of humanity I would not be honest.
18. I am sure that there would have been times when you wanted to take rest from all the things that were so much happening around. Especially during the times when things didn't go as you expected it to. What do you say to yourself at those times? How do you keep yourself motivated?
My grandmother had only followed elementary school and therefore had not studied statistics but she used to say " after bad times, good times come!": I was always encouraged with the statistics of my grandmother ...
19. What is your fitness regime and few habits you recommend everyone to follow to stay mentally and emotionally fit?
Always keep the direction of the dream but live day by day. Do not make long-term life projects: life, very often, is what happens to us while we plan it.
20. You are a Pioneer in the field of Neuroscience and AI. Where do you look to keep yourself inspired and motivated you to hold onto same field so long?
Inspiration comes from passion for something that maybe is in our DNA: this factor makes you go beyond economic and career disappointments.
End of Interview