In this series, NUS News profiles the University’s Presidential Young Professors who are at the forefront of their research fields, turning creative ideas into important innovations that make the world better.
Presidential Young Professor You Yang’s research focuses on machine learning and high-performance computing. His team broke the world record for ImageNet and BERT training speeds in 2017 and 2019 respectively.
What is easier to teach? A computer or a child? Maybe a computer because it is able to execute commands perfectly. Maybe a child because most of us understand how to speak to another human while we may not understand how to write complex code. Presidential Young Professor Professor You Yang from NUS Computer Science says that it depends on the task.
We are at the stage of technological development where it is easy to teach a computer basic tasks like elementary image recognition. However, computers still struggle to learn concepts that have higher-orders of thinking.
The human brain is a spectacularly complicated organ. What comes naturally to people is difficult to teach a computer. Take the example of language. At six months old, a baby can babble “ma-ma” and repeat the sounds they hear. And at the age two to three, the child begins to use prepositions that indicate the position of an object (“the cat is in the box”), use pronouns (“you”, “me”, “her”) and can respond to simple questions.