Developing systems that never fail, and getting computers to act more like like humans, are two of the "big computing issues" facing IT research scientists and universities, the British Computer Society (BCS) said today.
As part of its Grand Challenges for Computing Research, the BCS urged UK research institutions to address these projects, plus four others in areas ranging from distributed systems to the modelling of plant and animal behaviour.
The research initiatives were suggested at a recent workshop sponsored by the UK Computing Research Committee, a BCS expert panel, with support from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.
At the workshop, the proposers of the research into dependable systems are in no doubt about their aim. "We propose to solve the dependability problem for evolving systems once and for all," they said.
Over 15 years the Committee will propose projects to develop the methods, tools and infrastructure to enable software "to be developed to be truly dependable, at lower costs and with less risk than today".
Another group present at the workshop said that it aims "to create a computational architecture of the brain and mind which is inspired both by the neuronal architecture of the brain and high level cognitive functioning in humans, captures the information processing principles present in the brain, and describes how low-level neuronal processes are linked and integrated with high level cognitive capabilities such as adaptability, self-awareness and creativity".
The results could include a major contribution to work on mental disorders, and the laying of foundations for "a radical new generation of machines which act more and more like humans".
Such systems could work as domestic robots, for example helping to care for disabled people, and provide new facilities for teaching and intelligent access to information.
Two further proposals related to distributed systems were to cope with ubiquitous computing, supporting the design of networks that can expand and handle a growing variety and number of devices.
Another research proposal aims to develop computer models of life forms, using the already fast growing mass of biological data. This could lead to experiments run on computers, and to models of the interaction of organisms and the social behaviour of different life forms.
Information on Grand Challenges in Computing is available on the BCS website here.
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