Academic journal article Research-Technology Management

Intelligent Agents for Intelligent People: Maarten Sierhuis: As Director of Nissan's Silicon Valley Research Center, Maarten Sierhuis Leads the Development of the Intelligent Interfaces That Will Power the First Generation of Autonomous Vehicles

Academic journal article Research-Technology Management

Intelligent Agents for Intelligent People: Maarten Sierhuis: As Director of Nissan's Silicon Valley Research Center, Maarten Sierhuis Leads the Development of the Intelligent Interfaces That Will Power the First Generation of Autonomous Vehicles

Article excerpt

I started working on artificial intelligence systems in the early and mid 80s, initially on expert systems. From that first experience, I realized that artificial intelligence (AI) should be about using the technology to understand what people are doing and building systems that help those people.

This is what intelligent systems are really about for me: helping human organizations work more efficiently by helping people to do their work. They are not a way to replace human work but a way to make it better. There is a lot of complexity in the way people work that gets ignored in most systems. My colleagues and I created a modeling language which allowed us to represent people as intelligent agents. The artifacts and the environment in which they work are also agents, and the framework enables us to create a much more realistic simulation of work.

I followed this thread along a very interesting trajectory. I started out working at NYNEX Science and Technology [now Verizon] on a system to model the way repair work happens in the telephone network. I carried that over to working at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), where we implemented the technology in a multi-agent system for Mission Control, automating a flight controller for the space station. We simulated a system to show how astronauts and people on earth would work in collaboration with machines over multiple planets.

In 2010, NASA funding in this area was declining. I decided to start a company to create intelligent software designed from this human-centered point of view. I thought that this technology would be very useful in industry. I wanted to start something in the healthcare industry because sensor technology in that sector was booming, and we had shown at NASA that this technology was particularly well suited to integrating data from a lot of sensors, reasoning about it, and acting upon it in real time. But 2010 was not a great year to start a business, and I ended up at Xerox PARC as a director of two research groups. …

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