Artificial Intelligence (AI) isn’t a technology of the distant future. It’s today’s reality, with 77 percent of devices we use daily featuring some form of AI. By 2025, AI is expected to be a $60 billion global industry. Arkansas Research Alliance Fellow Dr. Xiuzhen Huang of Arkansas State University is making sure Arkansas is part of that lucrative economy, with the launch of the Center of No-Boundary Thinking. Arkansas Money & Politics caught up with Dr. Huang to visit about AI research in Arkansas.
AMP: Tell us a little bit about your area of expertise.
Dr. Huang: The application of research to solve real-world scientific challenges has always been inspirational to me. My research interests span the intersection of artificial intelligence and medicine. These topics include bioinformatics, biomedical informatics, machine learning, deep learning, graph theory and parameterized computation.
AMP: AI is a hot topic right now. In terms of AI, where is Arkansas strong?
Dr. Huang: AI researchers in Arkansas are competing — and winning — on the global stage. A recent international competition saw teams from the Arkansas AI-Campus [a consortium of state AI researchers] scoring in the top 50 and beating many of the more well-known institutions. In our work, we have a particular emphasis on partnering with our world-class hospital systems to utilize AI to improve patient health.
AMP: You just received approval from the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board for the Center for No-Boundary Thinking (CNBT). What is its purpose?
Dr. Huang: The Center for No-Boundary Thinking at A-State works to provide people with the skills necessary to work at the frontier of bioinformatics, advanced data science and artificial intelligence. This is part of the broader vision to address challenging research problems while transcending the boundaries of one-discipline science and train the state’s knowledge-based workforce of the future. I’ve always found that bringing people together from diverse backgrounds enables you to identify solutions that might have otherwise been missed.
AMP: In what ways is this research fundamental to the economic future of Arkansas?
Dr. Huang: Every industry today is a technology-enabled industry. As a research group, we’re tackling complex real-world problems, and the skills and techniques being developed are applicable to many areas of industry and research. The work we are doing aids doctors in making faster diagnosis, helps manufacturers optimize their supply chains and keeps data safe but accessible. These projects are possible because we are investing in Arkansans by providing the training and tools they need to excel in a knowledge-based economy.
AMP: How can this innovation be used to greatest effect, benefiting not just cutting-edge technologies but the entire economy?
Dr. Huang: It is common to think of Artificial Intelligence as something that might replace humans. AI will change our life, but it will never replace our life. On the contrary, AI is always bounded, but humans have no-boundary thinking. Investing in building AI that enhances human productivity helps ensure that AI can be close to everyone.
The ARA Academy of Scholars and Fellows is a community of strategic research leaders who strive to maximize the value of discovery and progress in the state. Learn more at ARAlliance.org.