Professor Miereille Hildebrant visits the WSI

Author: Thomas Davidson 

On the 9th of October, the Southampton Web Science Institute was incredibly proud to welcome lawyer and philopsher Professor Miereille Hildebrant. If a speaker is introduced and we are told that she “optimises the intellectual goals and aims of Web Science”, we know that it’s going to be an exciting talk and, sure enough, Miereille was not a disappointment.

M.Hildebrant address the room
Mireille Hildebrant address the room

Her talk was entitled “Interpretation and Prediction: Magical Thinking in ML”. While this does not give a lot away, the talk was very wide in subject matter, whilst also exploring deeply certain topics. Her current interest and research area is how the law extends to the technological world, particularly the web, and how the world of law will react to the implementation of AI in many areas across society. She said that both interpretation and prediction are essential if we are to safely navigate the ‘choppy waters’ that are coming, and that they are two sides of the same coin. She spoke of Oracular AI in this context, mentioning the interoperability problem and suggesting that a device which could provide very accurate answers with no explanation as to how was largely impossible and also very damaging. She also spoke about the mechanics of machine learning and how these could be tricked, and the power of prediction to shape the future.

The entire lecture was recorded and the video will be available soon, as well as myself and Tom’s live-tweets, but I’d just like to highlight how Miereille finished the lecture, which was calling for a new “rigorous speculation”. She concluded that we cannot do more than deploying properly prediction and interpretation.

Hearing big thinkers such as Miereille speak is fantastic for provoking my own thoughts, and something I am immensely grateful to the Web Science Institute for providing. Hearing big ideas such as her is a real privilege, and they quite often lead the way in terms of upcoming technological development.

For a storify of the event, please follow this link:

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