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4 Ways Computer Science is Changing the World

To say computers have changed the way we live, would be an understatement. Every day 2.5 quintillion bytes are generated globally. By 2025 it is estimated that 463 exabytes of data will be created each day globally – which in physical form amounts to 212,765,957 DVDs.  

When we take a look back to 1992, only a meagre 10 websites existed globally. Nearly thirty years later, from simulating brain processes, to using augmented reality to home-school children, our lives are heavily influenced by advanced computing. In light of this, we’ve highlighted four ways in which computer science shapes our world. 

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1. How computer science enables robots to perform surgery on people 

Robotic surgery has been employed by hospitals around the world for around 15 years, but recent advancements continue to revolutionise surgery. Traditionally, robotic surgery has acted as a variation of standard laparoscopic surgery (keyhole surgery), a type of surgical procedure where a surgeon can access the inside of the abdomen without having to make large incisions in the skin. The benefit of keyhole surgery over open surgery includes less blood loss, reduced pain, smaller scars and faster recovery times.  

However, innovations in robotics have allowed doctors to take laparoscopic surgery to the next level, allowing for more complex procedures to be performed, thereby reducing the complications associated with open surgery and transcending the limitations of traditional keyhole surgery. For example, CMR Surgical has pioneered its Versius surgical robotic system, which combines 3D vision and gives surgeons an augmented visualisation of surgery and allows them to perform complex procedures. An added benefit of the technology is that it’s cost efficient, portable, versatile in its applicability, and it is relatively easy to learn. Plus, robotic surgery collects data during the surgery that can be used to improve surgical technique or respond to the patient’s condition in real time. 

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2. How computer science maps ancient villages in the Amazon rainforest 

Enabled by cutting edge satellite data surveying, new research suggests that the Amazonian region hosted a larger population than previously thought, complete with large, interconnected villages and ceremonial earthworks.  Previously thought to be a sparsely populated by nomadic peoples who left little imprint on the dense rainforests, archaeologists and anthropologists have been able to use data gathered from satellite imagery to identify ancient geoglyphs (earthworks used for ceremonies). Subsequently, researchers were able to use their findings to predict where ancient sites might be located, creating advanced computer models that assessed elevation, precipitation and soil pH as well as predicting population densities. The research suggests that indigenous people of the Amazon built interconnected and fortified villages that spanned an immense 1,100 miles that flourished between 1200 and 1500 A.D.

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3. Artificial Intelligence and Climate Change

Artificial intelligence (AI) is at the forefront of the digital transformation being employed to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems. Climate change is perhaps one of the defining concerns of our time and naturally AI is being employed to help us better understand the effects of storms, natural disasters and anthropogenic environmental damage.  

For instance, JJAIBOT is an AI bot that uses predictive analytics to examine air pollution and areas at risk of poor-quality air and can accurately predict which days pollution will be most severe. Additionally, climate change has spurned on a new discipline in computer science, namely climate informatics, a study that brings together data and climate science to predict extreme weather and reconstruct past climate conditions using large-scale models to predict the impact of weather and climate. 

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4. Fighting COVID and alleviating poverty in the developing world

Computer science is helping fight against COVID and alleviate poverty in the developing world. Regarding the former, the fight against COVID has galvanised scientific communities across industry, including researchers in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Machine learning can be used to process various datasets and design advanced computer models that can predict how the disease is likely to mutate or how it will spread across countries and regions. The advanced computer models can also predict interactions among infected residents, over small, localised regions, as well as nationally.   

Even beyond epidemiology, the psychological effects of social isolation and loneliness remain key challenges during these times.  The possible long-term effects of lockdown have been well documented, and the psychological distress caused by quarantine and social isolation in other pandemics is also well studied too. For those with limited access to digital technology, the psychological effects can be particularly severe. As such, academics at Northumbria University have launched the Togather’ website, a tool to support groups of family or friends to transform their WhatsApp conversations into a story booklet for a loved one who may be isolated. 

Regarding poverty, computers have been instrumental in reducing poverty across the world’s poorest regions. The rise of mobile technology and the Internet of Things is already having a positive effect on poor countries in Africa and Asia, especially in regions which have not embraced industrialisation. By 2025, it is predicted that 475 million people on the African continent will be mobile internet users which has positive effects on Africa’s e-commerce market, which is estimated to grow to be worth around USD 75 billion within the next decade.  

Enabling commerce at both a macro and micro level is key to alleviating poverty in developing countries. But tech also offers up a lot of help to people living in countries where traditional commerce is unreliable or corrupt. In countries suffering from hyperinflation and political instability such as Venezuela, over 2,500 merchants are using Dash, a cryptocurrency rival to Bitcoin as tender. Because cryptocurrency isn’t routed through a bank or third party and is peer-to-peer, governments are not able to monitor or tax the amount at that point. For many Venezuelans, cryptocurrency allows them to send and receive money from abroad and make other transactions without worrying about corrupt bureaucrats acquiring their funds. 

Drive Digital Change: Join Our Computer Science Masters 

For anyone looking to take their career to the next level, Northumbria University’s distance learning Computer Science MSc is designed to develop experts in artificial intelligence, machine learning, web development and programming. If you’re interested in being at the forefront of tech innovation, taking our Computer Science Masters could be the perfect next step. With two pathways, Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence, you will be primed to build an understanding of machine learning and data sciences as well learning about the cutting-edge technologies drive innovation. 


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