Imagine a computer that can think like a human brain, its processes mirroring the neurons that power thought.
Where could artificial intelligence of this type take us, and how can we create such machines? It’s a topic that fascinates Mohamed Ali Larbi Daho Bachir.
Known as Ali Daho to his friends, the computer science major plans to transfer next fall, potentially to Binghamton University, the Rochester Institute of Technology or the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.
“Since I was a kid, I was interested in computer science. My dad was a math teacher, and I made my first website at the age of 14,” he explained.
A global Hornet
Ali Daho is originally from Algeria in North Africa, and came to Upstate New York in 2016 after his family won the “green card lottery” and were accepted for immigration into the United States. His father had friends in the Binghamton area, and a robust college and university system were also a plus.
While he also studied computer science at the university-level in his home country, Ali Daho enrolled at SUNY Broome in Spring 2017.
Unlike SUNY Broome, the Algerian university gave students little freedom in choosing courses, and had more of a set trajectory. Courses were taught in French, a legacy of the nation’s history of colonization. In fact, Algeria is a polyglot society: Official languages include the native language Tamazight and Arabic, Ali Daho explained. Children also begin learning French in elementary school, and English in middle school.
Over the past several years, Ali Daho has adapted to life in Binghamton – a much smaller community than his hometown, with much more precipitation. And while public transit certainly exists in the Binghamton area, American society remains built around the car, he noted.
“I lived in a big city, and I was busy all the time. It only rains and snows a little,” he said. “Here, it’s super-cold and not a lot of people like to walk.”
President of the International Student Organization (ISO), Ali Daho also connects with his fellow global Hornets and also strives to share their many cultures with their SUNY Broome peers. ISO organizes International Week on campus, in which members share food from their home countries in the campus Dining Hall, and a spring multicultural luncheon with both food and entertainment. They also take trips together to explore the United States, including a planned December excursion to New York City.
Programming his future
SUNY Broome is preparing Ali Daho for transfer to a competitive university. During his time here, he found dedicated professors; some of his favorites include the Computer Science professors Julie Cooley and Jennifer Sedelmeyer, and Math professors Christopher Kushner and Carly Tokos.
“They’re very nice and helpful,” he said.
He has stepped into a teaching role himself, too, as a peer tutor in computer science. He enjoys the opportunity to meet his fellow students, he said.
“I teach them something, and I learn something as well,” he said.
Long term, Ali Daho’s interests include machine learning and data mining – and from there, the creation of genuine artificial intelligence. But if you’re worried that the computers programmed to resemble the human mind will someday replace humans themselves, Ali Daho has some reassuring news for you.
“Humans have creativity. We cannot make something that is creative,” he explained. “Basically, it will follow specific tasks.”