Pakistan is home to some of the most talented minds of our time, and we’re proud to have individuals such as Dr. Haris Aziz that do us proud! A graduate of the prestigious Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), Dr. Haris Aziz has recently been awarded the accolade of one of the world’s top 10 AI researchers by the IEEE. Tazyeen Anjum had the opportunity to carry out a personal discussion with him, and learned much about the man behind the magic. This piece is an excerpt from our magazine publication, due for release soon.
- You have recently been named as one of the top 10 AI researchers in the world by IEEE. Tell us about your experience in receiving such an honour.
In any field, getting recognition from your peers as well as experts is satisfying. Naturally, I am pleased and honoured to be on the AI 10 to Watch list. When I got the award, it was great to get messages from friends, family and acquaintances. The highlight was getting messages from school teachers and in particular LUMS founder Syed Babar Ali who wrote “Don’t stop. Keep going”. I would like to use the award as a motivating factor to do something more impactful.
- Could you tell us a bit about artificial intelligence and how it interests you?
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a broad field that concerns modelling intelligence as well as building intelligent machines and systems. When there are multiple intelligent entities, the question arises how will they interact strategically with each other. I am particularly interested in mathematical foundations of artificial intelligence especially the use of game theory in designing effective mechanisms and systems. I like the dynamic relation AI has with microeconomics. Not only are ideas from microeconomics very suitable to model systems in AI but tools and techniques from AI have tremendous applications in newly emerging digital markets.
- How are you working to make artificial intelligence a much more viable option in today’s world?
Artificial intelligence is already present in our lives with the widespread use of smartphones and automated systems. Siri from iphone is an outcome of AI research. Soon, selfdriving cars will become common. As the artificial intelligence of systems increases, machines will become much better than humans in performing various tasks. Already, computers are starting to beat grandmasters at chess. Top tech companies are aware of these developments and investing heavily in AI research and development. My work is on the mathematics behind various fundamental problems in AI including how to help machines make better decisions and strategies.
- How has Pakistan contributed to your immense mental and intellectual growth?
I was born in Lahore and resided there till my BSc. My alma maters Beaconhouse Public School, Aitchison College, and LUMS have played a part in my development. I have learnt greatly from my teachers and peers.
I also have fond memories of my parents taking us to northern areas during the summers. It inculcated a sense of adventure in us. Currently, one of my PhD students is from that area.
- What sort of goal have you set for yourself in the future?
Although I set various personal short-term plans and goals, I do not want to limit myself to one concrete long termgoal. There’s always unchartered territory to explore or something bigger to inspire or challenge one’s self with. The main thing is to persevere, learn from inspiring people, and stay grounded.
- When one is a hero by destiny, how does one avoid being a tragic one?
No one can predict how one’s life will shape out. One can only hope that one is kind to others, makes reasonable decisions at critical junctures, and leads a healthy and productive life that is also beneficial to people around you.
Dwelling too much on setbacks is not helpful. I like the following lines of Kipling that are also written at the Wimbledon Centre Court entrance “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, and treat those two impostors just the same.”