Rob Milne was a remarkable man. He died of a heart attack on the 5th of June 2005 while climbing Mount Everest in Nepal. Milne (48) lived an active life: combining his three ‘careers’ seemingly effortlessly. He was a hi-tech entrepreneur, an AI researcher and a passionate mountaineer. Mount Everest was last on his list of the highest summits on each continent. He was only 400 meters from the top when he died. This publication commemorates and celebrates the life of Rob Milne. It covers all facets of Rob Milne's life and contains contributions by the people who have known him well and pay tribute to his life and his legacy. Rob Milne is survived by his wife Val and his two children Alex and Rosemary. After he died, his wife said in a radio interview: “Rob died at the top, doing what he loved.”
This festschrift celebrates the life of a remarkable man.
Rob Milne died while climbing Mount Everest early on 5th June 2005 Nepal Time. He was 48. He is survived by his wife Val and his two children Alex and Rosemary.
His untimely death was a tragedy, but Rob packed 96 years of living into his 48 years of life. In any one of his three “careers” — as a hi-tech entrepreneur, as an AI researcher and as a mountaineer — his achievements would have been enough for most ordinary mortals. But Rob combined world-class success in all of them. This book covers all these facets of his life. Each chapter has been contributed by one or more of his close collaborators as their tribute to Rob and to his legacy.
Rob's ascent of Everest was to have been the culmination of a lifetime's ambition to climb the highest summits in each of the world's seven continents. Everest was the last of these seven summits. He was only 400 metres from the top when he died from a sudden and massive heart attack. He had been an ambitious and successful mountaineer since his childhood in Colorado. As Val, said in a radio interview, “Rob died at the top, doing what he loved”. This was true not just of his mountaineering, but in all the spheres of his life.
I first met Rob in 1978 in Boston, Massachusetts. He was just finishing his undergraduate degree at MIT and had applied to be a PhD student at Edinburgh under my supervision. I was visiting MIT that Summer, so we met to discuss his research project. I was quickly introduced to his climbing expertise. He showed me how to climb a vertical brick wall using the gaps in the bricks as hand and foot holds. He invited me to try; I declined. He came to Edinburgh that Autumn to work on machine understanding of mechanics problems written in English as part of our Mecho project: one of the first non-US expert systems. In 1980, Rob initiated his project to conquer the seven summits by climbing Denali (Mt McKinley) in Alaska. I remember getting vertigo just by reading his subsequent article in our University Bulletin. Rob met Val at Edinburgh, and they married in 1981.
Climbing Denali required determination and persistence. Rob exhibited these qualities in everything he did, which is why he achieved so much. But it wasn't always the best approach. When it came to his PhD viva, Rob somehow got the misconception that to concede to his examiners on any point, however minor, would destroy his chances. He, therefore, fought every step of the way. The viva lasted eight hours! He obtained his PhD in 1983.
In 1982Rob returned to the USAwhere he worked first at the Wright-Paterson Airforce Base and then at the Pentagon. At the Pentagon, he introduced AI research into the US Army by founding the Army AI Center, in which he was the Chief AI scientist. Returning to Scotland in 1986, he founded Intelligent Applications: one of the first non-US expert system companies. After experimenting with various AI products, IA focused on turbine monitoring with its ‘Tiger’ product.
Most entrepreneurs running innovative, hi-tech companies have little time for extracurricular activity, but Rob found time both for his mountaineering and his AI research. He continued to publish in the top journals and conferences, authoring over 75 papers on knowledge-based systems, data-mining, qualitative reasoning, etc. He was a popular speaker, giving many invited talks and tutorials at major conferences. He acted as a bridge between academia and industry, for instance, frequently talking to academics on the technology transfer process.
Rob was a natural leader; he tirelessly and selflessly gave his time to help organise the activities in which he was involved. For instance, in both the British and European AI communities, he regularly served on conference committees, having been chair of both the British Computer Society's Specialist Group on AI Conference and of the European Conference on Artificial Intelligence. He was an officer of both organisations, including being the President of ECCAI 2000-04. He was also the inspiration behind bringing IJCAI-05 to Edinburgh, being the Local Arrangements Chair until his death. Rob played a key part in setting up the European Network of Excellence MONET (Model Based and Qualitative Systems), and in a second phase its Task Group BRIDGE (Bridging AI and Control Engineering model based diagnosis approaches) that focused on diagnosis.
Rob played an active role in the Scottish Software Federation (which merged to form ScotlandIS in 2000): the industry bodies for IT and software companies in Scotland. Rob was a director of each organisation 1997–2002. He was a mentor to a number of start-up companies and guided other entrepreneurs in their efforts to establish successful businesses. In recognition of his academic and industrial achievements, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2003. He was also active in Scottish Mountaineering Club, being Convener of the publications sub-committee and co-authoring a book on the Corbetts (the 219 Scottish hills between 2500ft and 3000ft high). In 1997, Rob became only the 1860th person to have climbed all the Munros (the 284 Scottish mountains over 3000ft high). He was a keen winter climber, helping to establish a number of high-grade new climbs throughout Scotland.
Rob summed up his attitude to life in a radio interview, by saying that it was important to wake up every morning with an exciting challenge in mind. He always set himself ambitious goals then attained them by persistence and determination. Ambition, persistence and determination are qualities sometimes associated with people who are difficult to get on with. Not so Rob. He was one of the most pleasant and easy-going people it has been my pleasure to work with. We already miss him.
This paper is in memory of Rob Milne. It recalls the scientific experience of the TIGER and TIGER SHEBA European projects that he led through the presentation of CA∼EN, a model-based diagnosis software that was devised during the projects and integrated with the commercial tool TIGERTM. Several lines of more recent work that all build on CA∼EN are also presented. These developments are closely related to the Qualitative Reasoning and Model Based Diagnosis communities, represented by the MONET network of Excellence in Europe. Their theories inspired this work and I like to believe that this work inspired the communities in return. Rob Milne and myself were active members of MONET.
Model-based reasoning is a practical way of reasoning about real world systems based on the behaviour of the system being modelled. This paper considers the useful characteristics of models for model-based reasoning, discusses the state of industrial adoption of model-based reasoning techniques, with particular reference to a previous study by Travé-Massuyès and Milne of industrial take-up of this technology. Finally, the paper considers the prospects for model-based reasoning over the next twenty years.
This paper is a refined version of the work that the authors presented at the 13th International Workshop on Qualitative Reasoning, jointly with the late Dr Rob Milne. It is dedicated to Rob in recognition of his significant contribution and support for the research described herein.
The paper presents a novel approach for generating causal dependencies between system variables, from an acausal description of the system behaviour, and for identifying the end causal impact, in terms of whether a change in the value of an influencing variable will lead to an increase or a decrease in the value of the influenced variables. This work is based on the use of the conventional method for dimensional analysis developed in classical physics, in conjunction with the exploitation of general heuristics. The utility of the work is demonstrated with its application to providing causal explanation for a benchmark problem that involves a dynamic feedback loop. The results reflect well the common-sense understanding of the causality in such a system that is otherwise difficult to capture using conventional causal ordering methods.
The aim of the I-X research programme is to provide a general framework for performing mixed-initiative synthesis tasks, along with a set of tools that supports its use. This framework arises from and builds upon seminal work at the University of Edinburgh in the field of Artificial Intelligence planning. In this paper we describe the framework and tools, before describing the application of I-X to the task of planning and coordinating expeditions to remote locations – such as an attempt on Everest. We call this application I-Ex.
Humor is an important mechanism for communicating new ideas and change perspectives. On the cognitive side humor has two very important properties: it helps getting and keeping people's attention and it helps remembering. This qualities have made it an ideal tool for advertisement. Clearly, the world of advertisement has a great potential for the adoption of computational humor, if the latter is possible at all. Though humor has been called “AI-complete” some prototypes are able to produce expressions limited in humor typology but meant to work in unrestricted domains. In this paper some such work on computational humor is presented and the applied potential of computational humor for advertisement discussed. The followed approach is based on a number of resources with rather shallow internal representations, but with large coverage, and the design of some specialised reasoners.
The field of music raises very interesting challenges to computer science and in particular to Artificial Intelligence. Indeed, as we will see, computational models of music need to take into account important elements of advanced human problem solving capabilities such as knowledge representation, reasoning, and learning. In this paper I describe examples of computer programs capable of carrying out musical activities and describe some creative aspects of musical such programs.
This paper is in memory of Rob Milne, the founder and managing director of Intelligent Applications. Rob passed away on 5th June 2005 whilst attempting to climb Mount Everest. http://www.aiai.ed.ac.uk/project/everest/.
A particular period of Rob Milne's professional contact with Industry that many of his academic colleagues and friends may not be familiar with is that during which he provided consultancy to British Airways. Rob became involved in a number of projects carried out by the British Airways Artificial Intelligence Unit from the late 1980's through to the late 1990's. The following is an account of some of the more important project areas that Rob and his colleagues from Intelligent Applications participated in, as well as highlighting the important contribution that he made to many of the business decisions required of the Artificial Intelligence Unit in developing knowledge-based solutions for the airline, and to the industry in general.
This essay describes the impressive organisational and communication skills and tenacity displayed by Rob during his voluntary work the British Computer Society's Specialist Group on Artificial Intelligence - SGAI. The chapter centres around Rob's work and enthusiasm for the Group and its associated annual conference. It explores Rob's interest in show-casing applications of AI techniques to support industry and finance and, I hope, helps to explain Rob's passion to go to Cambridge every winter (or rather almost every winter, there was one when he chose California instead and none us could quite understand why) for the past n years – the exact number now lost in the depths of time.
This article takes a slightly unusual approach to Rob Milne's writing as it is inextricably bound up with the subject matter – exploratory mountaineering. The latter is peculiarly intensive and demanding, especially in winter, and as a result has often induced exciting writing from its practitioners. For those not involved in this aspect of mountaineering therefore, a little background is often helpful. This cannot be an exhaustive list; Rob may have penned articles for local magazines or journals which are rarely indexed. Article excerpts are in italics.
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