IT Chapter Lead Katja Schuitemaker to speak at DEV World: How an ancient theory can help to predict
the future

Her presentation revolves around a theory that can be traced back to ancient Greece, but is still topical and relevant today. Katja Schuitemaker, IT Chapter Lead at ING Wholesale Banking Tech, will share her fascination with cellular automata – and show how they are being applied within ING – at DEV World 2024 on 29 February.

“Cellular automata (CA) are pseudo-complexity generators: a tremendously interesting and elegantly simple way to model chaotic systems,” Katja says. “Automata theory is at the heart of software engineering, but it is also used in biology to predict the spread of disease, for example, and in the economy in the context of stock market behaviour.”

Plato and Pythagoras

The theory is has been around for a long time. It was officially recorded in the 1940s, but the principle can actually be traced back to ancient Greece, when philosophers such as Plato and Pythagoras were trying to explain order in nature. “CA are very elegant, but deeply abstract. They allow you to model changes in data over time, given just basic rules and basic initial conditions. For some rules, you can predict what’s going to happen, and for others you can’t - you need time to mine it out. Wouldn’t it be interesting to run the CA long enough and quantify the degree of surprise?”

The here and now, and what comes next

That’s the key difference between CA and artificial intelligence. “By definition, both AI and ML both work off the assumption a pattern exists. For example, stock markets are very volatile; when the future constantly changes, you cannot solely rely on a pattern in existing data to learn from. CA are attractive as a modelling framework that may provide a better understanding of micro/macro relations, like the financial system,” Katja explains. “Automata theory is about a response to the current state, not influenced by any memory of the past. Cellular automata look purely at the here and now to define what comes next.”

AI is not the solution to everything

During DEV World, Katja will be taking a deep dive into the fascinating topic of automata theory and how ING applies it in practice. “My presentation will include a live demonstration of how algorithms can be used to explain complexity, including some ING examples. In particular, I want to inspire developers and make them think. I hope it will be an eye-opener for them when they see how CA can help you to model systems and understand their complexity. People often treat AI as the solution to everything; I want to show that it’s not always the case.”

Sharing cool things

Katja was used to studying complexity while working as a PhD student, and presented automata theory to colleagues around the world as part of ING’s Tech Academy, so she knows the subject matter inside out. She’s eagerly looking forward to presenting at DEV World: “I feel so grateful that ING is giving me and other colleagues this opportunity to share cool things within the tech community and to inspire people. The willingness of corporate-wide colleagues to help me find automaton implementations, coupled with the long-term collaboration with my close colleagues over the years, truly proves ING’s impressive engineering culture. Combined with opportunities like this one at DEV World, I can confidently say that ING is a great place to work!”

Are you interested in attending Katja’s talk and meeting her and her colleagues at the ING booth? Sign up at DEV World 2024.

Katja started working at ING in 2020, after completing her PhD on the topic of modelling complex flows in risk assessment and doing an IT traineeship. On her PhD supervisor’s recommendation, Katja is now working for her supervisor’s husband at ING. She joined as a software developer and has been IT Chapter Lead since early 2024. Her poodle puppy called Berlioz currently takes up all her free time.

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