DAMARISCOTTA — Chats with Champions is proud to present Bill Silver on Thursday, April 13 at 10 a.m. in the Porter Meeting Hall of Skidompha Library. Silver will speak about Artificial Intelligence.

Talk of Artificial Intelligence is suddenly all around us. What is AI, as the term is commonly used today? What distinguishes it from other computer technology that is not AI? Why now? AI as a field of research goes back to the late 1950’s, but something seems different now. How did we get here? AI is powered by the silicon transistors on computer chips. Human intelligence is powered by organic chemistry. How do silicon transistors and organic chemistry compare in raw computational power in 2023? What might this say about a world in which we coexist with AI? Join us for answers to these questions.

Bill earned a degree in electrical engineering from MIT in 1975. As an undergrad he was blessed with a life-changing experience at MIT’s Weather Radar lab, where he started as a student technician and eventually wrote almost all of the software that ran the lab’s computers. In 1977 he left Weather Radar to fulfill his dream of being accepted as a graduate student at MIT’s Artificial Intelligence Lab, working towards a PhD with a specialty in machine vision and robotics.

Bill was at the AI Lab for four years, earning a master’s degree and publishing original research in robotics. But in 1981 at age 27 he dropped out of the PhD program to become co-founder of Cognex, a high-tech startup in Boston. Cognex wanted to be a player in the emerging field of industrial machine vision, using computers to analyze live images for industrial assembly, inspection, robot guidance, and code reading applications. So too did dozens of other startups, and early on the market was thick with competitors. Most did not survive the 1980’s, and Cognex barely did, but by the end of the decade Bill had developed groundbreaking technology that became indispensable in semiconductor manufacturing and beyond. Cognex is now 42 years old, the recognized world leader in industrial machine vision, with employees and customers in Europe, Asia, and the Americas.

Bill was for many years the technical leader at Cognex, and in the vision industry as a whole. Among other achievements he has been awarded over 80 US and foreign patents, many of which have since expired and now belong to the public. Bill continues to work at Cognex, mostly writing C++ code while serving as Senior Fellow, and is happy to turn the technical heavy lifting over to a younger and smarter generation.

Bill and his wife Judy became year-round residents of Nobleboro in 2010, and both have been involved in local activities. Bill taught several courses in computer science at Bowdoin College, and was a coach of Bowdoin’s robotics team.

Bill and Judy are best known locally for their Gizmo Garden programs, which ran from 2015–19 at Skidompha Library. The program immersed middle- and high-school kids in electronics, robotics, and programming.

Chats with Champions is a free community offering from Skidompha Library at 184 Main Street, Damariscotta. Sherman’s Maine Coast Book Shops generously sponsors this program. For more information, please get in touch with the library at 207-887-0919.