Immune system teaches software

October 11, 1996

Computer experts at Aberystwyth are using the human immune system as the model for software that could radically improve computers' capacity for learning.

"The immune system is a naturally occurring learning system that protects the body from disease by identifying the pattern of infectious foreign substances, or antigens, and then creates antibodies that bind to the various antigens and destroy them,'' said John Hunt of the Centre for Intelligent Systems at the University of Wales in Aberystwyth.

"As far as computer software is concerned, the crux is that the system not only instantly recognises familiar antigens and neutralises them but will also allow immunity to fade when no longer required."

With microbiologist Denise Cooke, Dr Hunt developed a program which generates small pieces of computer code that take on the role of antibodies. The antigens are represented by the tasks that the program is trying to carry out. The software antibodies must try to match the requirements of these tasks.

"With the natural immune system you have to go back to the doctor every few years to get re-immunised with shots,'' said Dr Hunt. "This gave us the clue because in a computer-based learning system being able to forget little-used information is very important. Neural networks or case-based reasoning systems, for example, can easily get too specialised and so sidetracked because they can't forget anything."

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

James Fryer illustration (27 July 2017)

It is not Luddism to be cautious about destroying an academic publishing industry that has served us well, says Marilyn Deegan

Jeffrey Beall, associate professor and librarian at the University of Colorado Denver

Creator of controversial predatory journals blacklist says some peers are failing to warn of dangers of disreputable publishers

Hand squeezing stress ball
Working 55 hours per week, the loss of research periods, slashed pensions, increased bureaucracy, tiny budgets and declining standards have finally forced Michael Edwards out
Kayaker and jet skiiers

Nazima Kadir’s social circle reveals a range of alternative careers for would-be scholars, and often with better rewards than academia

hole in ground

‘Drastic action’ required to fix multibillion-pound shortfall in Universities Superannuation Scheme, expert warns