Time: 17:15 Thursday 6th September 2012

Venue: St George’s Church Lecture Theatre, University of Sheffield


What is Machine Learning? Why is it useful for us? Machine learning algorithms are the engines that are driving forward an intelligent internet. They are allowing us to uncover the causes of cancer and helping us understand the way the universe is put together. They are suggesting who your friends are on facebook, enabling driverless cars and causing flagging potentially fraudulent transactions on your credit card. To put it simply, machine learning is about understanding data.

In this lecture I will try and give a sense of the challenges we face in machine learning, with a particular focus on those that have inspired my research. We will look at applications of data modelling from the early 19th century to the present, and see how they relate to modern machine learning. There will be a particular focus on dealing with uncertainty: something humans are good at, but an area where computers have typically struggled. We will emphasize the role of uncertainty in data modelling and hope to persuade the audience that correct handling of uncertainty may be one of the keys to intelligent systems.


A video of the inaugural lecture was available until here until 2019 when the university decommissioned their Uecho server and removed it without notice.

Erratta: a couple of verbal slips I noticed. At one point (when referring to what Laplace said about a molecule of air) I say Gauss instead. At another point I say Donnington when I mean Dronsfield (actually in the moment I knew it was wrong, but the name Dronsfield completely escaped me!).

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