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The University of Southampton
Web Science Institute

A Distinguished Lecture with Mireille Hildebrandt Event

16:00 - 17:00
9 October 2017
University of Southampton, Highfield Campus, Building 53, Room 4025, Salisbury Road, Southampton, SO17 1BJ

For more information regarding this event, please email Sam Collins at .

Event details

The WSI are delighted to announce that Mireille Hildebrandt, Research Professor Interfacing Law and Technology at Vrije Universiteit Brussel will deliver the next Distinguished Lecture on Monday 9 October.

Interpretation and Prediction: MT in ML

This lecture is not about machine translation (MT) in machine learning (ML), though admittedly ML requires lots of translation (pun intended). Instead, I will discuss the cross-roads of the ‘interpretability problem’ in ML and its predictive salience as a problem on the brink of magical thinking (MT) and speculative exploration in ML. Web Science has been said to target two magics (things we don’t understand, yet): the influence of microscopic online interaction on macroscopic real world events, and the detection of new microscopic designs that could have positive macroscopic effects. I propose to define magic thinking as a mistaken belief in causal influences and/or predictive accuracy, based on illusionary wishful thinking about the nature of our world. This is directly related to the so-called interpretability problem in ML and the urge to favour math-inspired prediction above causal interpretation. My point will be that interpretation concerning social interaction concerns both meaning and causality, requiring us to denounce magical beliefs in predictive accuracy. Seeking microscopic design for positive real world effects calls for (1) designs that foster the multi-interpretability of human interaction, and (2) designs that reduce the manipulability of ‘user behaviour’ based on quantified models of influencers. This should result in a world wide web that affords speculative exploration as well as explainability, introducing new ways to confront the performance metrics of ML with the performativity of human society.

Speaker information

Mireille Hildebrandt, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, is a lawyer and a philosopher and a tenured Research Professor of ‘Interfacing Law and Technology’, appointed by the Research Council of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, the Faculty of Law and Criminology. She is also a part-time full Professor or ‘Smart Environments, Data Protection and the Rule of Law’ at the Science Faculty of Radboud University in the Netherlands, teaching ‘Law in Cyberspace’ to master students of computer science. She has been collaborating with computer scientists since 2004 and her research is focused on the implications of artificial intelligence and algorithmic management on democracy, law and the Rule of Law. Her most recent monograph is ‘Smart Technologies and the End(s) of Law’ (Edward Elgar 2015), her most recent edited volume (with Bibi van den Berg) is ‘Information, Freedom and Property’ (Routledge 2016).

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