SQA Higher Computing: Artificial Intelligence (DF31 12)

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SQA Higher Computing: Artificial Intelligence (DF31 12)

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Review of "SQA Higher Computing: Artificial Intelligence (DF31 12)"

published 20/05/2010 | tb240904
Member since : 09/05/2009
Reviews : 95
Members who trust : 32
About me :
Pro Interesting unit.
Cons Prolog
very helpful

"Artificial Intelligence"

Honda's ASIMO - talked about but not part of the course.

Honda's ASIMO - talked about but not part of the course.

As it's been a while since my last review, I've decided to get back into things by starting with one of the units I studied this year in school. I've just finished fifth year and my exams started last Wednesday. Now, I'm on study leave with very little to do other than revision (which is really boring when you do it for 10 hours a day). Writing reviews seems like an excellent thing to do during my regular breaks (and, I can always say I'm revising for English writing).

The unit I'm reviewing is called Artificial Intelligence. It's part of the Scottish Qualifications Authority's Higher Computing course and has the unit code DF31 12 in the National Qualifications catalogue.

Higher Computing

I'm not going to hide it, I'm excellent when it comes to Computing. I got 57/60 in my coursework (I'm sure I only lost marks because my teacher didn't want to be moderated) and I got a band 3 B in my prelim, which was disappointing but understandable as I was sick on the actual day and there was a fire drill on the day I sat the prelim (plus, I had less time, as I had to do it in class).

Higher Computing was a big step up from standard grade, which I did well in. In the Computer Systems unit, we learnt concepts which bewildered (e.g. holographic data storage) and enticed (e.g. data representation) me. In Software Development, new and more advanced programming constructs were introduced to us., as well as four standard algorithms. However, these built on what we'd learnt in standard grade. The AI unit was completely new.

Artificial Intelligence

AI is an optional unit in the Higher Computing course. Centres can pick between three units - Computer Networking, Multimedia Technology and Artificial Intelligence. Each loosely corresponds to a unit in the Higher Information Systems course - Artificial Intelligence being linked to the Expert Systems unit. While I'd have liked to have studied Computer Networking, I did like AI. Here are some of my favourite parts of the unit:

ASIMO is really the most advanced example of Artificial Intelligence in the world. While it's not necessary to know about him for the exam, we learnt a lot about him. I think the most important point we learnt from ASIMO was that the technology is still not perfect - he still walks into doors and falls down stairs. ASIMO is being developed by Honda in one of their Japanese research centre.
Deep Blue

This is part of the course and you need to know about it for the exam. Deep Blue is a chess playing program developed by IBM. It's famous for beating the world chess champion in 1997 - the first computer program to achieve this. The player he defeated did not take it well.

ELIZA is an example of early chatterbots. It was a program developed to act as a psychiatrist which would help users through their problems by taking the words of their responses and manipulating them so the user would talk through their problems by themselves. For example, if you said "I'm sad", ELIZA would reply with "Why are you sad?", resulting in the user talking about what's wrong. I found ELIZA quiet interesting and since it was developed in the 1960s it was an amazing piece advance in Artificial Intelligence given the limited computing power of the time. ELIZA was developed at MIT.
Expert Systems

Expert systems are used to help make decisions. For example, a bank may use a financial expert system to decide whether or not to give a customer a loan, or a hospital may try to diagnose a rare blood disorder using one. I enjoyed this part of the course because you can see for yourself how one works - there are many online examples, such as the NHS24 self diagnosis section of their website or the game 20Q. Some of the concepts are a little complex and confused me at times, however it was an interesting section.


As part of Artificial Intelligence you have to know knowledge representation. This involves some programming in a declarative language. We used Prolog (shortened from programming in logic). This was my least favourite part of the unit. I really enjoy programming in Visual Basic, so I thought I'd enjoy using Prolog. In actual fact, it was one of the hardest things I did this year. The first thing we did was create a database of facts with things like is_a(dog, mammal) which was easy enough. This means "a dog is a mammal" - nothing too complex. Then came rules and inheritance. I can't even remember how to do these so I'm just going to say they're very difficult.

If this wasn't bad enough, next came the trace. What's a trace? It's where you go through a Prolog database looking for a goal. This is theory work so can come up in the exam. It's not that difficult but it is boring and repetitive. Some of the examples we did in class were more than 30 lines of writing. I've been assured that nothing that long will come up in the exam but I don't trust the teacher - why would it be in the arrangements if it's not going to come up?

My Opinion

Artificial Intelligence is one of the most interesting branches of Computing. I think it was made easier by the fact that you can see everything the teacher's talking about applied in real life. It's impossible to see binary at work inside a computer, but you can see robots like ASIMO working with the technology discussed in the course. Prolog is quite difficult but it's worth doing it to learn about the fascinating field of AI.

It's the centre who picks which optional unit you sit, usually, but if you have the opportunity to study Artificial Intelligence, you should take it.

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Comments on this review

  • tb240904 published 25/05/2010
    Higher is equivalent to A Level. Also, Standard Grade = GCSE and I'm not sure what GNVQ is.
  • anonymili published 25/05/2010
    When I did Computer Studies at school, they never even touched on AI, which was a shame. Instead they seemed to want to focus on how scanners and things worked in supermarkets which always made me chuckle as I would think "Why do they think we'd want to work in a supermarket?" (only because I had higher aspirations). It's a shame you've only given this course 3 out of 5 stars. Also could you clarify if this is a unit for a GNVQ, GCSE or A level equivalent as I'm not quite clear about the Scottish qualifications?
  • karimkha published 24/05/2010
    Very interesting read and nicely presented x
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Product Information : SQA Higher Computing: Artificial Intelligence (DF31 12)

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