Yee Whye in I'm a Researcher: Machine Learning Zone
29 November 2019
Public Engagement - case study
OxCSML group’s Yee Whye Teh recently participated in I’m a Researcher: Machine Learning Zone, a fun two week online event connecting school students with academic researchers, allowing students to know bit more about the science behind machine learning as well as how life is like as a researcher in university. It is also a competition among researchers where students are the judges, and Yee Whye was the winner, congratulations!
Yee Whye wrote a few thoughts and reflections below.
Wow that was a very nice surprise! I had such a good time answering questions and chatting throughout the two weeks that it hadn’t occur to me that there’s a prize to be won. I’m very glad that the students enjoyed interacting with me as much as I interacted with them. I will use the prize money to encourage and enable the graduate students in my department to do outreach activities.
Thank you for all the great questions, ranging from science (“Could it be possible to create a robot that learns?”) to profound (“Do you think AI will eradicate us all?”) to the everyday (“Do you like lasagna?”). The answer is yes for me for the last one btw :) A big thank you also to the I’m a Scientist team who had everything running so smoothly and getting everybody together, as well as Mareli Grady, the outreach coordinator at the Department of Statistics who encouraged me to participate in the event.
This is my first time doing an outreach activity to school-aged kids actually. My reasons for participating are firstly that I am really passionate about machine learning and think it’s a very fun and exciting thing to do and hoped to convey some of that enthusiasm to students. And secondly that I feel we are living through an “information revolution” (with machine learning being one of many fields contributing to this revolution) that will profoundly change society the same way the industrial revolution did. So I feel that the more everybody knows about machine learning and how it can impact their lives the better. Many technologies are being and will be developed based on machine learning, and the more people are engaged in thinking about which technologies they want in their lives and the repercussions, the better society will be able to harness these technologies to benefit everybody as opposed only a few. Because machine learning is all about automating information processing and decision making, it is easy for a small number of people to use these technologies to control others and enrich themselves, as we have already seen in the case of Cambridge Analytica.
So what advice do I have to young people who will live through the information revolution? I think with the industrial revolution many jobs (think production lines in factories) basically require us to be like machines doing repetitive things. With the information revolution, many such jobs will be automated away. But if we fight for a more equitable society where these technologies benefit everyone, there will be new jobs and careers, those that cannot be automated, those that require us to be creative, to take responsibility for what we do, to take care of each other, to love each other, in other words, to be humans again. My advice? To be the best humans you can be!
What to read next
The Physiological Society are hosting this free webinar by Science Education Consultant Sai Pathmanathan. It is open to all but will be particularly useful for researchers with little experience of public engagement. Sign up by 28 Nov.