The project of Siberian Institute of Applied Systems Analysis named after A. N. Antamoshkin "Youth, science, artificial intelligence: Ulm - Krasnoyarsk, 30 years together" was among the winners in the competition "Russia and Germany: scientific and educational bridges". The competition was held as part of the Russian-German year of scientific and educational partnerships 2018-2020 under the patronage of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation and the Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany. Head of the Project, Doctor of Engineering Sciences, E. S. Semyonkin, scientific supervisor of the Siberian Institute of Applied Systems Analysis named after A. N. Antamoshkin, doctor of technical sciences, professor of Department of System Analysis and Operations Research of the Institute of Informatics and Telecommunications of Reshetnev University reflects on the role of international cooperation in promoting Russian science, educating new generations of young scientists, and the prospects of winning a prestigious competition for the University.

Support for scientific youth

 - Evgenii Stanislavovich, you have already achieved a lot in your professional and scientific work. How important is winning this contest for you and why?

E.S. Semyonkin

- Our project was submitted in the category "Support for scientific youth". Working with scientific youth is the main goal of the profession of a teacher and a scientist. I already had a badge for success in the development of NIRS (Scientific Research Work of Students) from our Ministry. Now the experts of two countries came to the conclusion that our work in this field deserves recognition. This means that we did our job at the international level very well. It is nice to know that you do your job well and it is appreciated by professionals from both countries. The very object of the work – scientific youth – also positively assesses our efforts which is easy to see in their attitude to us. What distinguishes this award is the recognition of the success of long-term work. It is one thing to celebrate a specific success at a specific moment, but it is quite another to recognize the high level of work performed day after day for 30 years.

 A well-known joke says: a bullet and a locomotive have about the same energy, but a locomotive develops it over a long time, not just a fraction of a second, and transports people, not the other way around. And which of them is more useful for people?

The significance is not so much in the award itself, but in the understanding that our enthusiastic work turned out to be right and really well done. And it is seen by the other people.

Creating of humane artificial intelligence

 - How interesting was it for you to work in the framework of international cooperation? What did this experience give you as a research scientist?

- It was very interesting. It was so much interesting that I can consider it to be my entire life`s work as a researcher and a teacher. And first of all, it gave me luxury, the luxury of human communication with a large number of very different and very interesting people.

As for being a scientist, there was a sad joke in the early 90's that says: Russian scientists have two options – to remain a scientist or to remain Russian, but not at the same time. That is the perfect description of those times. Someone left science and someone left the country. But we were lucky and managed to combine both options. The opportunity of collaboration with German colleagues and interesting research area within this cooperation, access to the latest scientific information and modern computer technology gave us the opportunity to remain Russian scientists and develop further. The older generation defended their doctoral theses (Dr.Sc.) and the younger generation defended their PhD theses. Thanks to this, the Department of System Analysis and Operations Research has been strengthened and expanded, as well as the other departments of the Institute. And not only we managed to combine them, but also dozens of our students and postgraduates. Most of them stayed in the country doing research, and their scientific level is very high. For example, they have repeatedly won prizes at world competitions for the best algorithm for solving complex optimization problems; they were ahead of very serious research teams from foreign countries and were awarded for the best reports at leading international scientific conferences not only for the best student or youth report, but also in the overall classification

Due to the collaboration with the Institute of Applied Knowledge Processing of the University of Ulm (FAW-Ulm) in the early 90's we managed to generalize our approach to optimizing complex systems by building several adaptive stochastic optimization algorithms. That allowed us to solve very complex and very important problems of choosing effective variants when designing control systems for various assignments. Further we came up with the idea of self-adaptive stochastic optimization algorithms which do not require the participation of an expert in optimization. And this allowed us to expand significantly the range of problems to be solved and decision-making specialists using our methods. Well, then everything went very quickly and efficiently. By the beginning of the 21st century started working on computer-aided design of machine learning technologies and artificial intelligence in general and, by the year 2020 there appeared works on the design of cyber physical systems and the Internet of things. Now we are working along current global trends on the implementation of «humane» artificial intelligence (do not get me wrong). We are developing algorithms for the automatically generated systems of «artificial» (in fact, computational) intelligence that would be understandable to humans and would not violate the rules of humanity (whatever that means) and much more from this area.

I cannot say that we achieved this solely thanks to the partnership with German colleagues but we would not have reached this level without them.

- The vast majority of the winning projects were from the humanities, and only a couple, including yours, were from the technical sphere. Why is there such a trend?

- It is unlikely that artificial intelligence technologies can be called a «technical» field in the full sense of the word. Yes, among the winners there are only two projects from this very trendy area nowadays: our project and the one of our colleagues from Novosibirsk State University («Internationalization of the summer school for computer science and artificial intelligence»). But it goes without saying that the vast majority of the winning projects were humanitarian. A significant part of the winning projects (9) related to the natural sciences which means they were neither technical nor humanitarian. But there were also four technical ones beside ours and Novosibirsk. There were eight entirely humanities-based proejcts. And three more projects were multidisciplinary, including a wide range of areas. So, the overwhelming majority of the winners are not the humanities-based projects. But you are right saying that there are disproportionately many humanities-based projects, more than the share of this field of science in Russia. And I can explain it. The humanities are very advanced in Germany, and there are a lot of students, scientists and researchers in this field. Proportionally, there are significantly more of them among scientists than in Russia. And they are mutually interesting to the russian colleagues. Any collaboration and cultural interaction is far more harmonious than among scientists in natural and technical profile in Germany. Therefore, the cooperation between them is much more intensive, and therefore successful from the point of view of the International expert commission.

 The luxury of human communication

- Is language barrier a problem for the exact sciences?

- It is not a problem at all. If people want to communicate, they do it. And from the point of view of terminology and understanding of scientific subtleties it is not a problem either. I think humanities scholars need to know foreign languages much better already at the initial stage of partnership, where the accuracy of understanding scientific problems depends on the choice of a combination of words and intonation. And this is easier in the exact and technical sciences. There are no serious problems in the professional communication if you organize your activities correctly. Although, of course, it is better to know at least one foreign language (English, for example), and even better two (in our case it is German).

When talking about interpersonal communication beyond the scientific and educational field, the bigger problem (although not as big as some think) is the difference in mentality, and not a linguistic misunderstanding. As the saying goes, «we do not understand some things not just because we cannot understand them, but because they do not fit in with our concepts». For example, I had a conversation with a German clerk who promised to send an important package to my place of residence. It took much time from me to understand why he could not tell me the time when the courier would deliver it. Surely I could not stay at home for two days waiting for him! And he could not understand why I needed the exact time, since he did not know it. Only the knowledge of two languages helped me. It turned out that if the courier could not reach me at home, he would just put the package next to the entrance door, where I would find it when I got home. Was he serious?! He was. This is how it works in Germany. At least in relatively small University cities like Ulm, Passau, and Aachen.

There was another example. German friends anxiously asked me whether the information in their news was correct that the Russian army was preparing for war. I answered that I really hoped so and was happy about it. They were surprised with my words – “How can you say like that?!” – I really do not understand. From my point of view any army can be in two states – either it is at war, or it is preparing for it. If our army is preparing for war, it means that it is not fighting, which is good. And if your army is not fighting, what does it do if not preparing for the war?” “Ah, that is what you are talking about, but we were just thinking… What a strange logic you have. Why is it strange? I guess, it is quite logical, is not it? And this is not a language barrier, but a mental one. «If you want peace, prepare for war, although you are not going to attack anyone» – this is our mentality. The German one is different: «If you want peace, look for common interests and negotiate». And this is the main thing - you need to communicate more in order to better understand each other. It does not matter how well you know the language. Spoiler alert: but it is better to know foreign languages as well as possible. It really helps.

- What would you personally consider the main achievements of your project? Can you assess the significance of the project for our University?

- The main personal achievement is 30 years of communication with many interesting people, i.e. the luxury of human communication. This would not have happened without this partnership. I am referring not only to German or other foreign colleagues and partners, but also to Russian participants in this 30-year long process. If not for this partnership, we would not have been able to work together and communicate with many Russians. The same students and postgraduates would just graduate, get their degrees and leave. As it is, they are now both colleagues and friends. Please, read our newspaper «Gorizont» for the past year! Together with our colleagues, we even created a research Institute- Siberian Institute of Applied Systems Analysis named after our teacher Alexander Nikolaevich Antamoshkin.

I think our partnership is also important for the University. At least in terms of training of staff. If we take teachers, students and postgraduates who worked in this partnership, there are three people who defended their doctoral theses (Dr.Sc.) before and immediately after the age of 40 (all three are still working at Reshetnev University), 25 people defended their PhD theses at the age of 23-25 (most of them also work at our University now, others have worked before and now moved to other organizations and several people work abroad). At the same time, even those who did not participate in international exchanges also benefited greatly from our cooperation. The statement of the problem, the field of research, the important and useful information obtained as a result of the partnership – all these worked for them, for their early success and promotion.

Without these successful young researchers and teachers, the University would look much weaker in our subject area, which is currently one of the most demanded and promising. Of course, I was repeatedly told that noone is irreplaceble, that if there were no us, there would be others, not worse, but maybe even better. I will not argue, apparently these other people are just working in another organization now. But this means that we benefit for two organizations at once – for our University and that other organization.

In any case, one of the 10 leading scientific schools of our University («Evolutionary algorithms for modeling and optimization of complex systems») has grown largely due to this Russian-German partnership. In other words, at least 10% of the scientific and educational success of our entire University is a numerical assessment of the significance of our project with the University of Ulm for it.

Times cannot be chosen

- What about the future? Will you continue this work?

- I certainly will, not only just continue. I will keep it developing, looking for additional opportunities and forms of cooperation, involving Russian and German colleagues and colleagues from other countries to our IWMMA conference, which will be held in November 2020 for the ninth time. Begun as a Russian-German conference, between Krasnoyarsk and Ulm, it has now regular guest colleagues from Austria, Germany, Slovenia, and Finland. Representatives of other countries, such as the Czech Republic and Japan, are also showing interest, to say nothing of our Russian colleagues from various Russian cities. This year we want to attract our graduates from China. Now they are working at various scientific organizations in China, and we are delighted to listen to them. Well, and the prospects are rather vague, as we have seen them over the past 30 years. And what were the prospects for the development of international relations in 1990 in half closed to foreigners Krasnoyarsk or for employees of Technical college of Krasnoyarsk Machine-Building Plant.

But Alexander Nikolaevich Antamoshkin, a professor of the Department of Higher Mathematics, created the Department of system analysis and operations research, teaching all disciplines in English in order to quickly include the University in the international scientific and educational communty. And this process started.

Alexander Nikolaevich Antamoshkin (September 25, 1951 – April 25, 2017) was an outstanding scientist and organizer of science, Doctor of Engineering Sciences, professor, winner of the President of the Russian Federation Prize in the field of education, honored worker of Higher School of the Russian Federation, honorary worker of Science and Technology of the Russian Federation, winner of three medals of the Russian Federation of Cosmonautics, founder and head of the largest Scientific School in Siberia on Mathematical Modeling and Optimization of Complex Systems.

 

A.N. Antamoshkin

In 1991, Alexander Antamoshkin organized and opened the Department of System Analysis and Operations Research that was the first in the practice of Krasnoyarsk universities who began training specialists according to international standards, including language training, and actively participate in international exchanges of students, PhD students and teachers. By now, dozens of graduates of the Department work at universities in Russia, Germany, the United States, the Czech Republic, Spain, Finland and other countries. Many of them have defended their theses in foreign research centers. Today, the Department has become the most powerful research team in Siberia in the field of System Analysis, Control and Information Processing and an inexhaustible source of talented young PhD students and doctors of science for universities, enterprises and organizations in Krasnoyarsk.

Under the leadership of A.N. Antamoshkin, the Department created an author's system for training elite specialists in the field of System Analysis, Management and Information Processing, which implements individual educational technologies based on early involvement of students in research activities. Thanks to this system, over the past fifteen years, more than 25 PhD theses have been defended by young people aged 23-25, dozens of undergraduates and postgraduates have won prizes from the President of the Russian Federation, the government of the Russian Federation, the head of the city of Krasnoyarsk. They have also won regional personal scholarships, and have received high awards at international and all-Russian scientific conferences, Olympiads and competitions.

It is difficult to overestimate the contribution of Alexander Antamoshkin to the formation and development of Siberian State Aerospace University (now it is "Reshetnev Siberian State University of Science and Technology") and the improvement of science in Krasnoyarsk. He trained a huge number of talented students, many of whom have long been doctor of science. For all time, he and his students have trained more than one hundred candidates and more than fifteen doctors of technical, physical, mathematical and economic sciences, currently working at Reshetnev Siberian State University of Science and Technology, at industrial enterprises, in state institutions and Universities in Krasnoyarsk and Russia.

Alexander Antamoshkin had outstanding human qualities, kindness, honesty and justice, and genuine respect for colleagues and students which complemented his creative abilities, talent as a researcher and teacher. He left a deep mark on the hearts of people with his good deeds and outstanding achievements in science and education.

In 2017 students and followers of Alexander Antamoshkin created Siberian Institute of Applied Systems Analysis named after him, in which they continue his work and develop his ideas. Reshetnev Siberian State University of Science and Technology established the Alexander Nikolaevich Antamoshkin scholarship for outstanding students, who achieve significant results in science and study in the field of System Analysis, Management and Information Processing.

 - The situation in the world is not easy now. Is there any risk for your project?

- There is a lot of uncertainty right now. Many things are against us. Even the award ceremony, which we were supposed to hold together in Berlin, was held separately. The Russians are in Moscow, German friends are in Berlin, and Deputy Ambassadors signed the documents instead of Foreign Ministers.

The situation is never simple. But, to paraphrase a famous lyric song: «Our thoughts are pure, our friends are with us, and this means we will see who comes out on top». Do what you have to do, do it well, and let it go as it goes. But, of course, you need to think carefully. And you need to know foreign languages. Times cannot be chosen, you can live and (choose yourself) die, survive, win in them…

This October one of our PhD students and one master student will go on an internship to our partners. PhD student won a Scholarship of the President of the Russian Federation, master student got the support of the «Erasmus+» program. Next February, two master students will visit Ulm as exchange students with the Baden-Württemberg Scholarship provided by our partners, and one PhD student will join a research as an intern with a Scholarship of the President of the Russian Federation. So life goes on…


Our reference

«Youth, science, artificial intelligence: Ulm and Krasnoyarsk are 30 years together» , the essence of the project presented for the competition –is a long-term partnership between Reshetnev Siberian State University of Science and Technology and Ulm University, aimed at providing comprehensive support to scientific youth through a system of exchanges, internships and two-way scientific leadership, which allows creating new growth points and centers of excellence in promising areas of artificial intelligence. The project solves the problems of complex development of the ubiquitous affective AI field, as well as highly effective training of young professionals, who are able to optimally solve problems in the field of artificial intelligence now and in the future.