Suddenly, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa appeared on screen, greeting the audience at the Técnico Congress Centre. However, the slightly mechanical voice and artificial movements were a subtle indication of what Arlindo Oliveira, a professor at Instituto Superior Técnico, would confirm a few seconds later – it was a deepfake developed by researchers at Instituto de Engenharia de Sistemas e Computadores: Investigação e Desenvolvimento (INESC-ID), intending to warn viewers about misinformation. The third Técnico MasterTalk, held on 16 November and organised by the Department of Computer Science and Engineering (DEI), was halfway through.
Starting with a brief review of the history of technological advances in computing and artificial intelligence, the talk covered subjects such as statistical language models (like ChatGPT) or different types of algorithms for describing or generating images. The possibility of turning the development of a video game into a master’s thesis was also addressed, despite the initial need to “spend three years of my degree writing programs to find out prime numbers”, as the lecturer sarcastically commented.
The opportunity to hear about such a wide variety of career paths was precisely what brought Daniela Correia to this MasterTalk. “I am interested in data science”, said the student who has completed the first year of Master’s programme in Computer Science and Engineering.
At an earlier stage in his academic path, Diogo, an 11th-year secondary school student, brought two friends from the same year to the MasterTalk. “I think Técnico prepares its students very well for the various engineering fields”, he commented, a few minutes before the event.
“A MasterTalk is useful for students to get an idea that Técnico is ‘not just about attending classes’, it is much more than that,” said Arlindo Oliveira, after the lecture. The Full Professor says “it is interesting for students to be exposed to something different from what they are used to in class, which has another dynamic, another marketing”. As for participating as a speaker in this type of event, the professor shared “it’s an interesting challenge to speak to students differently – we’re not giving a lesson, we’re ‘selling’ an idea and that’s an interesting initiative for professors”.