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Back in 1950, in the laboratory of the Kyiv Electrical Engineering Institute, academician Serhiy Lebedev designed the first computer in the continental Europe. After five years, the domestic cybernetics, first called "reactionary pseudo-science", experienced its golden age. The Soviet Union enterprises were massively automated, computers were produced and programmers taught. In 1957, academician Viktor Hlushkov initiated at the Mathematics Institute creation of the Computing Centre (later the Cybernetics Institute), which is still the "source" of scientific personnel in demand all over the world.
Today the technological process has been far ahead and made possible the incredible things. Americans, for example, last month for the first time transferred a thought from person to person. And who knows, if some historical events did not have happened, such a discovery might have occurred in Ukraine. ForUm asked daughter of academician Hlushkov, senior researcher at the Cybernetics Institute Vira Hlushkova what can be done today to revive the domestic cybernetics.
- How have you come to science and what academic interests do you have today?
- I am economist and mathematician. I graduated from the Cybernetics Department. My thesis was dedicated to the task of the traveling salesman problem with moving objects. This is just like GPRS, but the best way is to do search for not among the fixed objects, but the moving ones.
For example, to calculate the optimal path for the tanker aircraft. With the same topic I started to participate in the national space program. However, the Union broke up, and the program was terminated. Then I worked with an international group of scientists in the field of Chernobyl studies. We designed decision support system for nuclear accidents for Europe. It's called "RHODES" and still operates at the expense of the European taxpayers. However, three years ago I moved away from purely scientific problems, and engaged in the history of science, in particular the problems that still remain closed.
- Do you mean OGAS? Why did Hlushkov design this system?
- OGAS (Nationwide automated system of information accounting and processing) is dedicated to online management of the economy across the country, starting from a particular workstation, ending with leadership. According to the project, all the information needs to circulate within the system in the paperless form. In fact, OGAS was the first project of the information society in the world, in which the Internet was only a small component. Moreover, it included not only economic, but also managerial and social tasks.
I believe that today the project is undeservedly forgotten. Therefore, I, together with computer engineering veteran and colleague of my father Borys Malynovsky, try to revive it. The difficulty lies in the fact that all the documents on OGAS earlier had been transferred to Moscow, and then destroyed. However, I managed to find in the papers of my father three draft versions of preliminary design dated 1964, and to publish them. We organized the conference, which has caused great interest. In the House of Scientists we conduct monthly seminar titled "Problems of information society development", dedicated to OGAS and modern information society.
- Why wasn’t this system implemented in the Soviet Union?
- There are several reasons why OGAS was not initially supported. First of all, people just were not ready. They did not understand why such a system was needed. The government officials and economists did not understand that too. The military men were only ones who appreciated the project.
Second, it was a very strong resistance on part of the bureaucratic apparatus. No one wanted to lose rule over the country and to allow someone in parallel to see all the machinations of government. However, the economic development of the country start to fall behind, and something should have been done. In 1964, Evsej Lieberman proposed economic reforms, which were welcomed by the leadership. Hlushkov needed 20 billion rubles on OGAS for 20 years, and economists said that their project is worth only the paper which it is written on. Naturally, the leadership chose reform of Lieberman.
- What could be the benefits of the OGAS implementation today?
- OGAS could be ideally implemented in the Soviet Union. Now it can be realized only partially, what is being done. In fact, this is automation of the management team, e-government, e-democracy. By the way, soon we will give a lecture on OGAS at the Academy of Public Administration under the President of Ukraine. That is, we simply resume the part of what had been a long time. The same automated process control system designed by the Cybernetics Institute is still working on the Ukrainian refineries. For example, all the main oil pipelines of the USSR have been automated by the Cybernetics Institute. Until now, the Ukrainian section of the pipeline is running the same program. The Cybernetics Institute automated at different times the Koroliov NGO and the the Tupolev Design Bureau in Moscow, the Ostankino TV tower, the airport of Budapest , the plant "Electron" under KGB and the Interior Ministry , the majority of Ukrainian factories and associations, and many other different objects.
- What prevents our cybernetics from entering the world level?
- There is such a thing as digital sovereignty. It gives the right for country to determine its own information policy. Today, Ukraine has none of its element. In order to create a digital sovereignty, we need our own element base, operating systems, antivirus, software, search engines. Today we do not design anything. The Cybernetics Institute was built precisely for purposes of digital sovereignty - there was a pilot plant, the people who created the operating systems, compilers, interpreters, languages, software, algorithms, theorems, automation of large projects ... Now we have lost everything, leaving only a good cyber education. Earlier in the Ukraine had about 300 plants, which were engaged in the element base, not to mention all the others. Where are they today? Most are closed or redesigned. The whole industry, which was heroically created for over twenty years, is destroyed. We just lost competition to the West.
- Was domestic cybernetics destroyed on purpose?
- Yes, it was. The first blow was struck in 1969, by the decision of the CMEA countries, which, in general, was lobbied by the GDR. Then production of domestic computers almost ceased. The decisions were made to force to move to EU machines - copies from the third generation of IBM computers. Meanwhile, in Europe there already were fourth generation machines. Hlushkov and Lebedev wrote letters to Moscow, asked not to do that. However, the decision was made, and we actually committed ourselves to the backlog. That is, once Europe saw our cybernetics booming, it was immediately strangled.
- How competent are our young IT- specialists graduating from the Cybernetics Faculty of Taras Shevchenko Kyiv National University, the Polytechnic Institute?
- They are rather good specialists. In all international ratings Ukrainians IT- specialists enter the tops. This is explained by the fact that we have the old system of education and very qualified professors. I worked in the West and saw what our education systems are different. Our students are taught everything. Some subjects may not be useful in the future, however, they give wide perspective and a proper understanding of any problem. That is, our experts will take on any challenge, it does not scare them. Western education is more practical, the students learn something specific. Now in Ukraine they want to do the same. Business claims that they need students with vocational education. For now, programmers working in Ukraine do not solve serious problems. They work to outsource, they just need to program good. People, who know how to do big projects, are not wanted, because the government orders nothing.
- Do students-cybernetics willingly go into science?
- No. Our generation passes away, and nobody will work in science. This is not surprising, as young professional gets 1500 UAH. Now middle-aged people are considered to be young professionals. There are several places where young people go because of good managers who know how to earn money and work with Western partners, such as Mark Zhelezniak. However, they are soon taken to the West.
- By the way, almost all Ukrainian programmers work on European and American companies. It's a real brain drain!
- Yes, we have serious brain drain and it is, of course, very bad for the country. But now the situation has changed a bit. Representatives of the IT-business organized, presented a united front, and that resulted in simplified taxation for the computer industry and abolishment of the value added tax. Now it gives fruit – it is profitable for the people to stay and work in the country. Now, at least some of the young professionals do not go abroad. I believe that we should have more national programs with adequate funding.
- What are the most relevant and controversial issues for computer scientists?
- In 2012, they were protection of personal data and information in general, protection of bank cards and all that is associated with the payments, e-government, e-money, electronic signature, and piracy.
- What theme is particularly important to you personally?
- Now there is a so -called movement of transhumanists. One of its ideologists is Raymond Kurzweil, Google CTO. Now, they want to transplant a human brain into avatars, create bio-robots. And where does it lead? Now the Google Glass is actively advertised (headset with a projection screen, a camera and a constant connection to the cloud-based service that allows you to identify any person and learn more about the information in the image of his face. - Ed.) For users it is inconvenient to click it. Therefore, the creators have started a new development. They are going to implant a chip in a head, and then for a person it will be enough only to think about what he needs and chip will find the emotion. All these developments are carried out very seriously. They are supported by Hollywood actors, business leaders , transhumanists, the movement "Russia 2045", which, incidentally, is already out on the Ukrainian market. Now imagine what would happen if these chips are sewed in. It will be like the Apocalypse and dystopias. They will create a new human - biorobot . I am strongly opposed to this, and I stand at the position of the Orthodox Church, which strongly opposes sewing any chip and equipment under the skin. Then you could be transferred any thought, any orders. You would cease to be human. Free will would be taken away.
- Cyber-terrorism is one of the biggest problems in the world today. Do Ukrainian scientists work to solve this problem?
- This problem is severely limited by finances. Information protection is very expensive affair, especially if you do it carefully. One aspect of the problem is the fact that we do not have any element of digital sovereignty. This means that any computer, any application, any computer components can be bookmarked. And it could start to work and to download the necessary information when it will be needed. The other side is when buying a digital signature or key cryptographic certificate, you should be aware that there is no eternal security. It is based on an algorithm, which can be deciphered using the exhaustive search.
The minimum we can do is to install valid antivirus software on all computers. However, according to the Interior Ministry, 47%, and according to Microsoft, more than 70 % of computers in government work on pirated software. All security levels in the CEC system were installed only by April of this year! The problem of personal data protection started to be reflected on just in the last year, after the famous case on ex.ua, when elementary DDOS- attacks in the country broke almost all government websites.
- By the way, how do you feel about piracy? What's wrong with the opportunity to watch movies online?
- There's nothing wrong with that. And I, along with the scientific community, actively advocated for the ex.ua. The issue of piracy needs to be solved reasonably. Our country has misbalance between wages and the value of intellectual property. In the West, this content is worth some money, but we can not afford it for our salaries. The problem must be solved gradually. Otherwise, we will not be able to use the operating system and other software, which is mostly pirate, and that will close the Internet in Ukraine for many people.
- How do you feel about the introduction of an electronic register of patients?
- Medical data are sensitive data. It is believed that the World Bank gives money to this system, and it will be based on a server with full protection. However, they will be protected in the Health Ministry, and the original data is still provided by each clinic. Who is it going to do there? Under the law, we reserve the right not to provide our data to clinic, if a country has free medical care.
Personal data is oil of 21st century. The medical data can be used in different ways. At best, it is to sell to commercial structures, so that they offer you a variety of products. In the worst case, to blackmail to impair a career.
- Is there a way to solve the problem of personal data insecurity in Ukraine, if funding is available?
- It is very difficult. However, it can be solved if there is money. It is necessary to create entire centers, where programmers will serve, for example, a district health center. It is necessary to build up a new system.
- Is it possible to create artificial intelligence? Can robots be taught creativity?
- Of course, some functions of artificial intelligence can be transferred to them. These works are carried out almost from the inception of cybernetics. Robots can have imitation of creative features. They were created for this purpose. My father always said that the robots had to simplify the work and creativity for a man. Although, they can have drivers and set goals only to a certain level. I, as a believer, understand that there is a soul and a higher power, a kind of the fifth dimension, which one can not simulate, but it still exists in us. The robot can say that he believes in God, but it will be only an imitation. Unfortunately, most of what we produce now is not creativity, but imitation. For example, movies that are not quite touch the soul. My father used to say: "It is not fearful if the machines think like humans, it is scary fearful, if people think like machines".
- Have people become smarter with the development of modern technologies?
- They start to think faster. The ability to solve analytical problems has remained such as it was, however, ability to take large amounts of information has increased. I often wonder whether mankind could go the other way before the rise of computer technology. In fact, no. My father wrote that there were three information barriers in the history of mankind. The first is when humanity invented writing, the second - the printing press and the third - computers. That is, the computer has emerged as a response to the challenge. The quantity of information increased, so it became impossible to manage the economy without it. And as the amount of information grows further, people start to think faster.
- A psychologist persuaded me that people are always filtering information for themselves, so switching channels or flicking through headers is a natural need. But it seems to me that it looks like a modern disease.
- Actually, it's very bad. Child psychologists raise alarm. Modern children has clip thinking, their attention does not stay long on any matter. And how can they filter something? In addition, all the information comes to them via video. I do not know what will happen to them when they grow up.
- When the Internet was in its infancy, did it have other tasks? Is now everything out of control, or as planned?
- I think that was not planned. Internet was started as a closed network for the military and was not designed as a system of communication between ordinary people. It just happened. At first, it was impossible to control it because of the weak capacity of computers. Now, however, it is not a problem.
By the way, according to the decision of the World Conference on International Telecommunications of 3-14 December 2012 , in-depth analysis of Internet traffic DPI (Deep Packet Inspection) shall be introduced starting from 2015. Germany opposed the decision, warning that this technology can be used for the introduction of censorship and, therefore, become an obstacle to the free exchange of information. According to the DPI, Internet service providers will be able to analyze not only the headers of transmitted data, but also their content, providers will be obliged to view the data. That is, if now they only can read subjects of e-mails, soon they will be able to read everything. You could be taken money for each step. In general, the modern Internet has two major trends - commercialization and control.
- Was Edward Snowden right to tell the world about U.S. cybercrimes?
- Perhaps, yes. However, to say with certainty, it is necessary to know the motives behind his actions. In any case, the consequences are positive. People start talking about the personal data protection.
- Recently, the President of Ukraine has urged Ukrainian programmers to create our own Google. Is this possible? Does our country possess such capacities?
- That's a tough question. To create a search engine, you need huge financing and many other things. It's not that simple. I discussed this matter with colleagues. The Strategic Studies Institute conducted their analysis, and all came to the conclusion that it is too difficult. However, nothing is impossible. We also have our domestic anti-virus software. However, it is not enough to have the product, it must be popularized somehow. For that we need a national order and installation on state-owned enterprises, what gives money and advertising.
- Does modern Ukrainian cybernetics have something to be proud of? Do we have at least some achievements, our own products?
- We have a variety of software. However, most often they are, unfortunately, of not a world-class, not even European. For example, the same supercomputer SCIT- 4 is not even in a hundred of the world's supercomputers. It occupies several cabinets in our Institute, and in the United States and Germany there are whole stadiums of these cabinets. We also have strong theoretical schools. For example, scientists working with Oleksandr Letychivsky, implement their projects using Mototrolla. We have a very good cryptography school. With their help, the Hluskov Cybernetics Institute made Ukrainian standard of electronic signature. However, due to inter-departmental struggle, it now works only in the tax office.
- How do you see Ukrainian cybernetics in a hundred years?
- At a minimum, the way it began, maybe even better. I see it with its material and technical base, institutions and own digital sovereignty.
Anastasia Pika, photos made by Maksym Trebukhov and taken from personal archive of Vira Hlushkova