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WSI Distinguished Lecture with Mireille Hildebrandt

University of Southampton Web Science Institute

Monday, 9 October 2017 from 16:00 to 17:00 (BST)

WSI Distinguished Lecture with Mireille Hildebrandt

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The Web Science Institute is delighted to invite you our next Distinguished Lecture with Mireille Hildebrandt, Research Professor Interfacing Law and Technology at Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

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.

Mireille Hildebrandt is a lawyer and a philosopher. She is 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).

The lecture will run from 4-5pm followed by refreshments in Room 3028 on Level 3.

Do you have questions about WSI Distinguished Lecture with Mireille Hildebrandt? Contact University of Southampton Web Science Institute

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When & Where


Mountbatten Building 53, Room 4025
Highfield Campus
University of Southampton
SO17 1RE Southampton, UK
United Kingdom

Monday, 9 October 2017 from 16:00 to 17:00 (BST)


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University of Southampton Web Science Institute

The Web Science Institute at the University of Southampton was launched in November 2013 to investigate how the World Wide Web is changing the world and the world is changing the Web.

The Web is the largest information system ever constructed. It is a social and technical phenomenon that has transformed the world and continues to do so in innovative and unexpected ways that will shape our future. We can’t predict how the Web will change our society, but Southampton has taken a lead in developing new forms of economic, social, political, technological and cultural resources based on a deep understanding of the Web's technologies and social construction.

The Web Science Institute (WSI) acts as a focal point, co-ordinating and putting into practice education, research and enterprise initiatives on web-related developments at the University of Southampton. Its aim is to secure a sustainable future for inter-disciplinary research across the University that has Web Science at its core.

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WSI Distinguished Lecture with Mireille Hildebrandt
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