Award-Winning Research on Machine Learning and AI Continues at VCU

Although machine learning is a hot topic these days, the idea of computers having the ability to learn by themselves is far from new. In 1959, Arthur Samuel, creator of the first successful checkers-playing program to beat humans, started the conversation with his well-known definition for machine learning as a ‘field of study that gives computers the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed” (Schuld, Sinayskiy, & Petruccione, 2015). Fast forward to 2018, and you’ll find researchers like Milos Manic, Ph.D., at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), continuing to advance the progress of machine learning. An application of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning provides systems with the ability to learn through data access without an automatic program. Taking humans out of the equation in the computer learning process to make better decisions is the goal.

AICS – An “artificial intelligence breakthrough”
An INL Researcher and inventor, Manic, recently won the Federal Laboratory Consortium Award (FLCA) in the Far West Region along with his team, Todd Vollmer and Craig Rieger. Yet another notch in Manic’s award-winning belt, the Outstanding Technology Development Award recognized the team’s work on the Autonomic Intelligent Cyber Sensor (AICS), an important “artificial intelligence breakthrough.” Developed to protect “the nation’s critical infrastructure from devastating cyber attack,” AICS is effective in its ability to quickly identify and divert hackers without human intervention. Working autonomously through machine learning to identify and map industrial control systems, AICS recognizes “anomalous network traffic” and can alert operators and slow down or stop any hackers by deploying virtual decoys.

Naturally, the idea of machines doing their own learning without human intervention might seem problematic. But according to Manic, machine learning is vital to our ecosystem as everything connects and it’s important to detect when something goes wrong. Whether we’re talking about a system or human, the reality is that “everything is talking to everything.” According to Manic, this begs the questions, "How do we trust these machines? How are they able to do the right thing?” These machines are “as smart as you make them. We create algorithms that make decisions on their own. We are not hard coding this anymore,” he explains. Milo’s research involves finding ways to monitor and protect the cyber-physical and physical world. He and his team are dedicated to this work at VCU, which he feels is so important. "Governments are big-ticket items and nuclear is very important to a cyber-physical system. Intelligence software systems today are tightly interacting with humans. The latest algorithms are near universal human intelligence to learn, act, and improve. Definitely sooner than we thought."

Can you teach machines emotions?
Artificial Intelligence (AI), like machine learning applications, has been around for decades. It might even have some classic movie buffs recalling the 1968 movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey. in which supercomputer, Hal 9000, refuses to follow astronaut instructions saying, “I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that." Today, the use of AI in computer programs is still buzzing around the media. Conversations about developing such programs are raising questions about AI’s emotional efficiency. Who is challenging this ethical dilemma? Manic himself recently raised questions earlier this year in London at the 2018 IEEE Joint International Conference on Information Management and Processing and e-Society, e-Learning and e-Technologies (IEEE ICMP/ICSLT 2018) about “the future of mankind’s relationship” with AI. “How do you teach a computer to feel, love, dream, or forget?“

Manic welcomes the challenges of his research at VCU in machine learning, cybersecurity, energy security, infrastructure creation fuel efficiency, virtual reality, and robots. "I really like this country and at VCU, we are focused on the most critical issues that our nation is facing today,” says Manic. He and his team truly appreciate the opportunity to take on these projects with a true passion for solving the unknown and protecting our world both today and tomorrow.

About Professor Manic
As Professor in the Department of Computer Science and academician for over 15 years, Manic established VCU’s first Virtual Reality Laboratory and continues his research that focuses on machine learning, cybersecurity, and human-machine interfaces. In 2014, he joined Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Engineering and has since secured over $1.1M to fund his Modern Heuristics Research Group. An incredible asset to the School of Engineering, Manic has published over 180 refereed articles in international journals, books, and conferences holds several U.S. patents, and several invention disclosures in conjunction with VCU’s Innovation Gateway.