Risto Miikkulainen: "Evolutionary Surrogate-assisted Prescription"

This lecture is part of the Helsinki Distinguished Lecture Series on Future Information Technology, organized by HIIT, a joint research institute between University of Helsinki and Aalto University. The lecture is free of charge and open to everyone.

The next lecture in the Helsinki Distinguished Lecture Series on Future Information Technology will be given by Professor Risto Miikkulainen from the University of Texas at Austin.

Please register to get the participation link.

Evolutionary Surrogate-assisted Prescription

Risto Miikkulainen
Professor of Computer Science
The University of Texas at Austin and Cognizant Technology Solutions


How can we make good decisions in business, engineering design, science, education, and indeed in life in general? Good decisions are often based on experience: recalling what decisions were made in similar situations in the past, how well they worked out, and modifying them to achieve good outcomes in current situation. Evolutionary Surrogate-assisted Prescription (ESP) is a machine learning technology that makes it possible to come up with good decision strategies automatically. The idea is to use historical data to build a predictive surrogate model, and population based search (i.e. evolutionary computation) to discover good decision strategies against it. I’ll review the technology and evaluate it in several examples, including optimizing behavior in sequential decision tasks, and optimizing non-pharmaceutical interventions in the COVID-19 pandemic. The method is found to be sample efficient and creative, forming a foundation for optimizing many decision tasks in the future.

About the Speaker

Risto Miikkulainen is a Professor of Computer Science at the University of Texas at Austin and Associate VP of Evolutionary AI at Cognizant. He received an M.S. in Engineering from Helsinki University of Technology (now Aalto University) in 1986, and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from UCLA in 1990.

His current research focuses on methods and applications of neuroevolution, as well as neural network models of natural language processing and vision; he is an author of over 430 articles in these research areas. At Cognizant, and previously as CTO of Sentient Technologies, he is scaling up these approaches to real-world problems.

Risto is an IEEE Fellow; his work on neuroevolution has recently been recognized with the IEEE CIS Evolutionary Computation Pioneer Award, the Gabor Award of the International Neural Network Society and Outstanding Paper of the Decade Award of the International Society for Artificial Life.

Helsinki Institute for Information Technology HIIT
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