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November 8, 2012

CSU professor seeks AI advancements

Munakata connects U.S., Japan strengths in field

By Brittney Schmies

Once in a while you come across a person who really has a passion for what they do. Dr. Toshinori Munakata, professor emeritus of Computer and Information Science at Cleveland State, is one of those people. Munakata is an expert in the field of artificial intelligence and has spent a lifetime researching and advancing knowledge in the area.

Recently, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan and “Newsweek Japan” recognized Munakata and his achievements in the area of artificial intelligence.

In July 2012, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan honored him for his internationally recognized scholarship and research. The certificate of commendation came from Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba and recognizes Munakata’s contribution in the promotion and enlightenment of information science as well as the advancement of academic exchange between Japan and the United States.

For his contributions, the Japanese edition of “Newsweek” recognized Munakata in the 25th Anniversary issue.

The issue featured “25 Japanese Who Changed the World.” Munakata’s portion of the feature focused on the work he has done in artificial intelligence.

Munakata said they were interested in his contributions to the scholarly exchange and information exchange between the two countries. He explained that he had led seminars in Japan introducing the ideas of artificial intelligence and computer science.

“I was familiar with these things from this country [the United States], so they were eager to hear, from me, direct information,” said Munakata.

He also explained that the U.S. is strong in the basic research aspects of computer science and artificial intelligence, while Japan has a stronger understanding of the practical application of the areas. He worked to bring together the common ideas of the strengths of two countries.

Munakata’s passion for the field of computer science started back in 1961 when he was using the computer for nuclear fusion research. His passion for computer science extends further than the routine computing tasks taken advantage of every day.

Munakata said what’s exciting to him is the smart use of computers, algorithms and programming and how they work.

In 1967, Munakata received an invitation from Lockheed Corporation, an aerospace technology company, to come to the United States and study air dynamics.

Munakata took this opportunity and left his position teaching at the University of Tokyo. He said that he told himself he might stay for a few years, but he has been there ever since.

While pursuing his career in the computer science field, Munakata took a position teaching for Cleveland State’s Computer and Information Science department in 1978. He cites teaching as his favorite occupation.

“When you have good students, and they get knowledge from you, it’s a joy,” he said.
Munakata, who lives in Brecksville, has been in the Cleveland area for 34 years and enjoys living in the area for many reasons. There aren’t many natural disasters, the public school system is good, and it offers a good urban life without being too big like New York or Los Angeles, Munakata said.

Munakata’s three daughters, who graduated from Brecksville-Broadview Heights and now have doctorate degrees, went through the public school system he cites as a benefit of Cleveland. His eldest daughters, Junko and Yuko, are college professors in Colorado, and his youngest, Naoko, is an engineer in Los Angeles.

Along with developing the computer science field and teaching, Munakata has published two editions of his book “The Fundamentals of the New Artificial Intelligence.” He also put together one of the most successful issues of “Communications of the ACM,” a scholarly journal for computing professionals.

In 1994, Munakata came up with the idea of putting together a collection of articles written by experts in the sub field of artificial intelligence.

The Special Issue, “Commercial and Industrial AI,” “Communications of the ACM” was published in March 1994.

“The editor said this is one of the most cited issues,” Munakata said. “Within a month, all the back order copies were sold out.”

Years later, in 2012, Munakata is still busy in the field of computer science. He is currently interested in new computing paradigms, finding non-silicon ways of computing.

Currently, all computers are silicon-based computing, Munakata said. He is interested in areas such as carbon nanotube devices and paradigms based on quantum physics to make computers function.

Munakata said nobody knows where computer science or artificial intelligence is going in the future. It’s something that can’t be answered definitively, but in theory, Munakata knows what the greatest advancement would be.

“The greatest advancement, if it is possible, is realizing human common sense within a computer, a dream not only of computer science, but of humankind.”