Congreso Futuro: CMM researchers reveal the first Chilean human genome and the great challenge of artificial intelligence

Congreso Futuro: CMM researchers reveal the first Chilean human genome and the great challenge of artificial intelligence

The Center for Mathematical Modeling of the University of Chile also had a workshop on the astronomical broker ALeRCE and a stand with the theme “From Mathematics to Artificial Intelligence”.

What do we do now?” was the title of the thirteenth edition of the Congreso Futuro 2024, held between January 15 and 20 at the Extension Center of the National Institute (CEINA) in Santiago de Chile, where 107 national and international guests presented their research in agriculture, astronomy, food, art, biodiversity, climate, computing, communication, culture, sports, natural disasters, education, energy, ethics, genomics, government, legislation, mining, oceans, health, security, society, technology and urbanism, all related to Artificial Intelligence.

The researcher associated with the Center for Mathematical Modeling (CMM) of the University of Chile and professor at the University of O’Higgins, Alex Di Genova, was in charge of closing the first day with his presentation “Who we are: The first sequence of a complete Chilean genome” (WATCH VIDEO), corresponding to the block The genetics that connects us.

“Our father and mother provide us with 23 haploid chromosomes each, these fuse through sexual reproduction and generate a viable cell that has 46 chromosomes. That is, in our body and genetics we have for each chromosome two copies and for each gene two copies, one of paternal origin and one of maternal origin. So, how much genetic information do we have in a cell? The real genome of an individual is 6 Gigabase (Gb)“, the bioinformatician explained initially. He then went on to explain how he sequenced and assembled the first Chilean human genome, using the WENGAN algorithm – which in Mapudungún (Mapuche language) means “to make the way” -, and also detailed the application of Nanopore technology at the Universidad de O’Higgins. “To date we have sequenced around 13 complete human genomes, even generating up to 125 gigabytes of data in a single run. In total we have generated 1 TB of genetic information,” he said.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, January 18, it was the turn of Felipe Tobar, also a CMM associate researcher and director of the Data and Artificial Intelligence Initiative (IDIA) of the University of Chile, who presented “Aligned algorithms: the challenge of incorporating human criteria in artificial intelligence” (WATCH VIDEO), in the block Programming wellbeing.

The speaker began with two mental examples that evidenced the non-alignment of algorithms with the problem, a man disguised as a chicken crossing the street and the formula for human happiness. “We say that an algorithm or an artificial intelligence system is aligned when it operates by fulfilling the goal for which it was created. And the reason why, the autonomous vehicle is not aligned is because of a failure of the programmer to write the rule. The rule was very explicit and did not respect the spirit of safe driving, while the algorithm that sought to make people happy, developed – apparently – an emergent goal that was not foreseen as limits of the algorithms that could be implemented,” he said.

Tobar explained in simple language what an algorithm and machine learning are, and also reflected on the revolutionary work of the British Alan Turing. “Many times we believe that technology is mature, but we still do not know how this technology works and we need to keep learning. The advantage is that the one who teaches is the one who learns the most (…) We must understand that artificial intelligence is a revolution in several aspects, but more importantly it is an intellectual revolution,” he said.

International guests

For this Congreso Futuro 2024, the Center for Mathematical Modeling also promoted the participation of Anne Siegel from France on Monday 15 and Leila Sloman from the United States on Wednesday 17.

First, the computer scientist and PhD in Mathematics presented “Connecting numbers and the health of the planet” (WATCH VIDEO), in the Rupturist Health block. There, she delved into “Old Fashion AI: Mimic reasoning”, the microbiome, microbiota and symbiosis, stating about the latter that “it is a mutually beneficial biological association that is needed for survival between two organisms. We scientists say it is symbiosis when it is interactions and associations between two living species.”

“An example of symbiosis would be applied in Chile in this industry (mining and bioleaching). This bacterial process that consists in that mineral is extracted and put together with a soup of bacteria – that have been carefully chosen by biotechnologists – so that they are more efficient together, than alone. Then, it simply waits for it to break down on its own and provide copper. It took us three years, in collaboration with the Center for Mathematical Modeling in Chile, to try to figure out why they were so efficient together (…) What happens is that symbiosis is also in the bodies, we have these living things in the intestines, and we also see how plants live with microbes in their roots,” he said.

Meanwhile, journalist and mathematician Leila Sloman presented on “Why mathematics is important for intelligence, critical thinking and social coexistence” (WATCH VIDEO), in the Re-enchantment with Science block.

“In the media we cover mathematics with publications that are not so extreme, but that unpack the mathematics behind tools that can be used in everyday life, for example, algorithm recommendations, articles on climate change or using a mathematical topic, even if we don’t have a message that is relevant or of importance to everyday life. In mathematics we often do not know where the discovery is going to reach us”, he remarked.

Along these lines, he said that “many mathematicians are more motivated by their own interests. They talk about the beauty of a proof that uses an intelligent idea that brings life together and makes it in a new way, they generally talk about their results as satisfactory. This is what I hear mathematicians talk about, rather than the hope that there is a practical benefit. So, I want to convince them that there is an inherent happiness in mathematics,” he remarked.

ALeRCE Workshop

In addition to the talks in the main hall, the Center for Mathematical Modeling of the University of Chile held a workshop by Ignacio Reyes on ALeRCE, the most widely used Chilean astronomical broker in the world (WATCH WORKSHOP), which is also promoted by the Instituto Milenio Astrofísica (MAS), the Universidad de Concepción and Data Observatory.

The CMM engineer explained that “what we do in the ALeRCE project is to be an intermediary – in the astronomical world it is also called a broker – between this new generation of telescopes and the astronomical community. We have telescopes, such as the Vera C. Rubin and others, that are detecting events that are happening in the sky and they notify us every time they occur. We receive all this information and our work here is like finding a needle in a haystack, it is to find the most interesting objects, classify them and then deliver all the information to the community so that they can do their science, and also point other more specific and more powerful telescopes to continue collecting information on these objects”.

“There are some cases, like exploding stars, that can last a couple of weeks. In fact, the most interesting part may last a couple of hours, so you have to try to catch these things quickly and go and point them with a very powerful telescope to know, for example, what is the electromagnetic spectrum or what are the chemical elements it contains and do science from this tsunami of data,” he added.

Ignacio Reyes also explained what ALeRCE’s challenge will be with the start-up of the Vera C. Rubin Observatory in 2025. Rubin Observatory, from the summit of Cerro Pachón in the Coquimbo region, which will begin a decade of unprecedented scientific research called: “Legacy Survey of Space and Time”. This project, unique on a planetary level for its 3,200 megapixel digital telescopic camera, will produce an unprecedented astronomical catalog base, providing 20 terabytes of data per night and 200 petabytes at the end of its operation, which already challenges the scientific community for real-time data processing.

“Since 2019, ALeRCE has received more than 250 million alerts from the ZTF and ATLAS telescopes, classifying nearly 2 million light curves. Using this model, so far we are world leaders in early supernova detection, reporting more than 20,000 candidates and, since 2021, 25% of confirmed supernovae worldwide have been found thanks to ALeRCE. Meanwhile, from next year (2025), when the Vera C. Rubin Observatory starts operating, we will be the only brigade in the world that will be able to observe supernovae. Rubin Observatory, we will be the only official broker in the entire southern hemisphere and the rate of alerts will increase from 250,000 per night, currently provided by ZTF and ATLAS, to more than 10 million alerts per night”.

From Mathematics to Artificial Intelligence

During the entire week of the Congreso Futuro 2024, the CMM also had an audiovisual stand that disseminated the timeline “From Mathematics to Artificial Intelligence”, which broke down 33 milestones from 1642, with the invention of the mechanical calculator nicknamed ‘Pascalina’, to 2023 with the installation in Chile of the Copernicus Regional Center, a free satellite observation of the Earth.

At the same time, the journalist Alonso Farías, together with the researcher and mathematician Flavio Guíñez, conducted a streaming program of scientific dissemination where they interviewed the international speakers: Anne Siegel (France), Leila Sloman (United States), Giorgios Yannakakis (Greece), Fernando Aramayo (Bolivia) y Antonio Lazcano (Mexico); and the national speakers: Alex Di Genova, Marcelo Leppe, Pablo Zamora, Felipe Tobar y Nicolás Copano.

They also talked with the executive vice-president of Fundación Encuentros del Futuro, Guido Girardi; the director of CMM, Héctor Ramírez; researchers Jorge Amaya and Gloria Henríquez; the coordinator of the Mathematics Connected project, Ricardo Fredes; and ALeRCE’s engineer, Ignacio Reyes. (Click on each name to review the complete interview).

By Alonso Farías Ponce, CMM journalist.

Posted on Jan 24, 2024 in Frontpage, News