Artificial Intelligence

Academic year 2017/2018

Instructor: Giorgio Fumera

DIEE Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering


Pattern Recognition and Applications Lab

Course description - Syllabus - Class schedule - Teaching material - Grading - Teaching assessment - Useful links - News - How to contact the instructor

Course description

This course introduces the students to some of the main approaches, representations and techniques developed in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) for designing systems capable to solve complex information processing problems.

The following three areas are covered:

  • search algorithms
  • knowledge-based systems (knowledge representation and inference, using logical languages)
  • machine learning (decision trees and artificial neural networks)
The Lisp programming language is also presented.


This is a graduate course under the M.Sc. program in Electronic Engineering.


Knowledge of elements of discrete mathematics (combinatorics), computer architecture, and at least one programming language.

Academic period, duration and credits

  • This course is taught during the first semester (October to December)
  • Class time (lectures and exercises): 50 h
  • Credits (ECTS/CFU): 5


Introduction to AI

Historical notes, main AI approaches and subfields, AI achievements and applications, philosophical and etchical issues.

Solving problems by searching

  • Formulating search problems: goal, states, actions, solutions, solution cost, state space, search trees. Search algorithms. Properties of search algorithms: optimality, completeness, computational complexity
  • Uninformed search strategies: breadth-first search, depth-first search, uniform-cost search. Notes on depth-limited search, Iterative deepening depth-first search, bidirectional search
  • Informed (heuristic) search strategies: best-first search, greedy search, A* search. Heuristic functions.

Knowledge representation and inference

  • Introduction: motivating problems, knowledge-based systems
  • Introduction to logic: argumentation (reasoning), correctness of an argument, propositions, proofs, inference algorithms
  • Logical languages, models
  • Propositional logic: syntax, semantics, truth tables of connectives, the model checking inference algorithm. Inference rules and algorithms; the forward and backward chaining inference algorithms
  • Properties of inference algorithms: soundness, completeness, computational complexity
  • Predicate (first-order) logic: syntax and semantics; relationships between quantifiers. Inference rules and algorithms; the forward and backward chaining inference algorithms; notes on the resolution inference rule and algorithm
  • Application: expert systems

Machine learning

  • Hystorical notes and motivating problems
  • Inductive learning (learning from examples)
  • Supervised learning, automatic classification algorithms
  • Decision trees: definition, learning algorithms
  • Artificial neural networks. Hystorical notes. The perceptron and its learning algorithm. Multi-layer feed-forward networks; the backpropagation learning algorithm. Notes on deep neural networks
  • Notes on the statistical formulation of supervised learning problems. Main classifier evaluation methods: hold-out, cross-validation

The Lisp language

  • Introduction: procedural (imperative) and declarative (logical, functional) programming paradigms and languages; hystorical notes on Lisp
  • Main built-in data types: atoms (numbers and symbols), lists
  • Expressions and evaluation rules: self-evaluating atoms (numbers, special symbols), function calls and special expressions (lists)
  • Main built-in functions: mathematics (=, +, -, *, /, sqrt, etc.), list processing (cons, first, rest; list, length, nth, append, null), logic (equal, atom, listp, null)
  • Main special expressions: quote; and, or, not; cond (conditional expression)
  • User-defined functions: the defun special expression
  • Binding values to symbols (variable assignments): the setq and setf special expressions
  • User-defined (structured) data-types: the defstruct special expression

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Class schedule

  • Monday, 17-19h, room BA
  • Tuesday, 17-18h, room BA
  • Wednesday, 11-13h, room BA

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Teaching material


S.J. Russell, P. Norvig, Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach, Pearson, 2010 (3rd ed.).

Several copies of the Italian edition are available at the Faculty Library, and at other libraries of our University and outside (S.J. Russell, P. Norvig, Intelligenza Artificiale: un approccio moderno, UTET, 1998; Pearson Education Italia, 2005).

Useful resources on artificial neural networks

  • A classic textbook (several copies are available at the Faculty Library):
    C.M. Bishop, Neural networks for pattern recognition, Oxford University Press, 1995
    • ch. 1 (par. 1.1 to 1.6): Statistical Pattern Recognition
    • ch. 3: Single-Layer Networks
    • ch. 4: The Multi-layer Perceptron
  • A recent free online book which provides a very nice and gentle introduction to artificial neural networks and deep neural networks:
    M. Nielsen, Neural Networks and Deep Learning

Lecture slides and exercises

An extended version of the slides projected during the lectures is available.

Lisp resources

  • Common Lisp implementations:
    • Clozure Common Lisp (CCL): open source, with a GUI for Mac OS only
    • Lispworks Personal Edition: a free (limited) version of a commercial product
    • CLisp: open source, command line interpreter (not to be mistaken for the CLIPS expert system tool - see below)
    • Jabberwocky: Java-based IDE (it requires a Lisp interpreter, like CLisp)
  • Common Lisp reference book: Guy L. Steele Jr., Common Lisp the Language, 2nd edition, Digital Press

Expert system tools

CLIPS is a well known tool for building expert systems (not to be mistaken for the CLisp interpreter for the Lisp language - see above).

Chapters 1-6 of the User's guide (cap. 1-6) are enough as a starting point. More details can be found on the Basic Programming Guide.

Machine learning software

A number of implementations of learning algorithms for decision trees and artificial neural networks (beside many other classifiers) are available. Among them:
  • the Python scikit-learn library (you may install before the package manager Miniconda, which also installs Python)
  • Weka: a Java-based software for designing classifiers and carrying out experiments
  • playground: a useful tool for visualizing on a browser the inner working of feed-forward multi-layer artificial neural networks and of the backpropagation learning algorithm, based on the open source TensorFlow library 

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The work for this course will consists of:

  • one written examination containing questions and exercises on all the topics on the syllabus
  • one take-home project assignment involving the implementation of one or more methods from one of the topics on the syllabus (search algorithms, expert systems, machine learning, Lisp) and their application to a given problem; the projects can be done individually or in groups of two students

The exam will count for 10/30 of the grade, and the project for 20/30.

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Teaching assessment

Teaching assessment questionnaires for the previous academic years are available on the  web site of the M.Sc. program in Electronic Engineering.

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Useful links

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December 27, 2017
Results of the written test of Dec. 18.

December 18, 2017
Since Dec. 15 it is possible to fill out the teaching evaluation forms for all the courses of the 1st semester, even by students who did not attend the lectures. Filling out the form is mandatory to enter for the exams. It is however recommended that all students fill out the evaluation forms as soon as possible. The forms can be accessed from your own Esse3 account.

November 30, 2017
From Jan. 23 to Feb. 6, 2018, prof. G.L. Marcialis will give a seminar on Biometric Technologies for Computer Security (24 hours, 2 ETCS credits if a final test is passed). More information and registration instructions are available in the seminar web page.

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How to contact the instructor

Giorgio Fumera
Dept. of Electrical and Electronic Eng. (DIEE), building B, 3rd floor
Phone: 070 675 5754
E-mail: surname AT diee DOT unica DOT it

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Most recent update: December 27, 2017