10 Minute Genius: Toby Walsh on mutant algorithms

By 2062, experts estimate that we will have created machines as intelligent as humans. Already AI has become so integrated into our everyday lives that it’s often hard to detect… from home robots to smartphones telling you the fastest route home at the press of a button. 

So what happens when those algorithms go wrong? Can AI be devious? And how can we be sure that we don’t lose the human touch when we get zeros and ones to do the work for us?

Computers can be frighteningly smart in some ways, but dangerously dim in other ways. We’ve seen plenty of examples in the news of algorithms exacerbating racial profiling, swaying election results, or increasing the spread of misinformation. “You don’t need to fear super intelligence — at least not yet — but ‘stupid’ intelligence,” Scientia Professor of Artificial Intelligence Toby Walsh says.

The success of AI means we can and should hand over many routine decisions to machines, but we must ensure we are vigilant in preventing unconscious bias and unintended consequences that creep unnoticed into the algorithms we create.

In less than ten minutes, or roughly the same amount of time it takes a computer to win a million games of chess, Prof. Walsh will explore how we can make sure mutant algorithms don’t go too far.

Toby Walsh is a leading researcher in Artificial Intelligence. He is a Laureate Fellow and Scientia Professor of Artificial Intelligence in the School of Computer Science and Engineering at UNSW Sydney, and he also leads the Algorithmic Decision Theory group at CSIRO Data61. He was named by the Australian newspaper as a “rock star” of Australia's digital revolution. He has been elected a fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, a fellow of the ACM, the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) and of the European Association for Artificial Intelligence. He has played a leading role at the UN and elsewhere on the campaign to ban lethal autonomous weapons (aka “killer robots”).

Toby Walsh regularly appears in the media talking about the impact of AI and robotics on society. He is passionate that limits are placed on AI to ensure the public good such as with autonomous weapons. His work has appeared in the New Scientist, American Scientist, Le Scienze, Cosmos, Technology Review, The New York Times, The Guardian and The Conversation. Toby is the author of many books including 2062: The World that AI Made and his newest book It's Alive!: Artificial Intelligence from the Logic Piano to Killer Robots will be released in March 2022.