Duke University Alumni Magazine

"Graduate students are students first, not employees of the system. Unlike regular employees, their primary reason for being on campus is not to make money, but to receive on education."

-- a November editorial in the Chronicle, reacting to the week-long strike by graduate students demanding recognition of their union at the University of California at Berkeley, UCLA, and UC-San Diego

"Black uniforms may have their place in modern sports, but they just don't look right on Duke baskethall players. There's something wrong with the idea of mucking up a color scheme that has come to be synonymous with the premier college basketball program in the country just so Nike can diversify its marketing even further."

-- Tom Beshere '94 on Duke's new road uniforms, in a letter to the editor of The Chronicle

"I don't think teaching is about a subject. What I'm doing is teaching myself. I try to engage students in projects, things that they themselves choose and enjoy. They help me in my work and I acknowledge them. I see students as partners in a project. It's fun."

-- Classics professor John Younger, recipient of the Duke Alumni Associatlon's Distinguished Teaching Award, in a Duke Dialogue interview

"If Duke should be expected to pay taxes or make in-lieu payments, by logical extension other nonprofit institutions in the region should as well. I doubt that there would be much public support for churches and cultural institutions, and some of the area's smaller private colleges, having to begin to pay taxes or voluntary payments for services for which they are legally entitled under state law."

-- Paul Vick '66, the university's director of government relations, responding to Durham City Council member Floyd McKissick's proposal that Duke make voluntary payments to the city since, as a nonprofit, it pays no taxes

"Nobody lives a perfect life. I don't care who they are. And one kind of favor to somebody, showing compassion, can turn that person around."

-- Frances Honeycutt, a Duke medical secretary and winner of Duke's Humanitarian Service Award, who prepares food for the homeless and passes it out downtown from the back of her station wagon

We asked nine undergraduates:

Duke earned first place among 38 colleges and universities rated by the Physicians' Committee for Responsible Medicine for providing healthy, low-fat, and vegetarian foods. Were you surprised by Duke's ranking?

Yes: 3

     Despite the popularity of Pop Tarts (the top seller at campus stores) and Pizza Devil delivery, Duke students are aware of the availability of healthy food in the dining halls. "Compared to other schools where I've heard horror stories, Duke's food is pretty good," said one sophomore. "The only other places I've eaten are UVA and Harvard, There's more choice herc in salad bars, breads, and grains [cereals]."

     While praising the university's efforts to provide a healthful selection, some students complained about the timing. One junior criticized "the fact that the Pitts closes earlier on Saturday and Sunday and you have to eat at the Rat or Burger King, which is not healthy." A sophomore suggested that it "would be more convenient for us if Duke could keep the healthier eating options open later."

     Those surprised by the news complained about methods of cooking. "I prefer vegetables," said a sophomore,"and I feel like selections are limited and a lot of times they're overcooked." On East,"the breakfast and dinner foods are pretty fattening," according to one first-year student, and on West,"when you go to the Pitts, you would think that the Mongolian Grill would be good for you, but they cook the vegetables in oil," complained another sophomore.

January 1997 marks the mythical birthday of Arthur C. Clarke's HAL computer, the electronic star of 2OO1: A Space Odyssey. Did the concept of HAL reflect unrealistic assumptions about artificial intelligence (A.I.), or are we likely in the coming decades to see a computer capable of that sort of complex thinking ?

     HAL embodies the lofty expectations surrounding A.I. in the early Sixties. Some have in fact been realized: HAL's computational power is comparable with modern supercomputers, and its graphics capabilities have already been surpassed. HAL's chess playing is reminiscent of IBM's Deep Blue, which managed to win one game last year against reigning chess champion Gary Kasparov. Probabilistic reasoning systems are gaining use in medical diagnosis and flight control. The many aspects of intelligence needed for a robot -- such as natural language, vision, adaptive learning, planning, scheduling, perception, reasoning -- have each been successfully realized within limited domains.

      The grand challenge for hopeful HAL designers of the future is how to make the transition from "limited domains" to the broad and ill - defined contexts that arise in everyday life. Ironically, tasks that people regard as easy, such as going to the grocery store, are the hardest for a computer to handle. Such tasks require integration of all the various aspects of robotic intelligence, and they deal simultaneously with several domains of knowledge. Computers are still not capable of effectively organizing and exploiting much narrower knowledge domains, such as the information available on the World Wide Web.

      So, was HAL unrealistic for 1997? Definitely, but the vision and excitement that HAL created helped propel a generation of researchers to push the horizons of A.I. Ultimately, many more decades down the road, those efforts will lead to a machine capable of complex interactions and thinking that we may call intelligence.

-- Jeff Vitter, Gilbert, Louis, and Edward Lehrman Professor and chair of Duke's computer science department

-- compiled by Sarah Miller '99

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