05 April 2016

This week I’m tweeting from the @shefunilife account, an account that is switched once a week between staff and students at the University of Sheffield.

This post is just to introduce me to those that follow the account, who may not know much about what machine learning is and how it is effecting us.

Machinbe learning is the principal technology underpinning the current advances in artificial intelligence. Well, that’s how I like to put it anyway. I’ve been working in machine learning for nearly 20 years (it will be 20 years in September!) when I started my PhD at Aston University. I finished my PhD at University of Cambridge, because my supervisor was recruited by Microsoft Research … that’s way back in 1997.

Machine learning is the technology that’s used to make predictions given data. It’s used for deciing which ads appear in your Google search results, it’s used for automatic translation, it’s used foer recognising faces in images. It was used to beat the World Champion in Go very recently.

Machine learning is everywhere now, and over the last few years the press have become much more aware of it, Google, Facebook, Amazon have all made recent heavy investments in the field. Microsoft made investments as far back as 1997 (see above!). But many of the advances are now capturing media attention.

To find out more here’s a few links:

My Guardian articles are mainly about bringing attention to issues in machine learning and data analysis that I think are passing by the general public.

My blog is sometimes more technical, and sometimes more detailed than the articles in the Guardian (which are typically space constrained). You are reading it now!

I answered questions on machine learning in a Quora Session last month.

I also give public talks at science week, in schools etc.

I do a fair amount of community organisation, I run workshops and summer schools, have organised leading machine learning conferences and I’m working to try and influence more the way that the UK does data science (in a good way I hope!).

I also do a lot of work with industry, I’ve worked for Microsoft in the past, will also visit them in New England later in the year, I’ve also visited with Facebook, Google and will present to Amazon at their Machine Learning conference later in the year. I also do consulting for smaller companies and start ups on data analysis (including work in health, privacy, formula one). As you can tell, machine learning gets you everywhere, that’s primarily because there’s data everywhere! And it needs a lot of processing.

My group also collaborates with colleagues at the University of Makerere and UN Global Pulse on projects in the developing world. These are some of the most exciting projects we work on because the potential to deliver effective systems that dramatically improve people’s lives is far greater than perhaps anywhere else.

My own research is mainly in models called Gaussian processes. I don’t want to get all technical on you, but if you are interested in finding out more check out the Gaussian Process Summer Schools that we run.

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