DR. HARIS AZIZ
Optimization / Algorithmic Decision Theory
University of New South Wales (UNSW) Sydney, Australia
AgayBarho! strongly believes that Pakistan is home to some of the most talented minds of our times – the sort who are ahead of their times. They carve niches not just for themselves, but open an inspirational window in othersí minds too; the desire to achieve something extraordinary and unique to oneself. Weíre delighted to open this section with Dr. Haris Aziz for you ñ our very own alumni of Lahore University of Management Sciences who has recently been awarded the accolade of one of the world’s top 10 AI researchers by the IEEE. In an online interview recently with Tazyeen Anjum, Dr. Aziz talked about his subject, research, society and the works!
- Could you tell us a bit about artificial intelligence and how it interests you?
HA: 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 as to 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 as well.
- How are you working to make artificial intelligence a much more viable option in todayís world?
HA: 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, self-driving 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.
- With all your studies on social change and game theory, how do you personally view society as a whole?
HA: Part of my research involves designing ways that allow for better cooperation among agents, whether they are virtual or robots. Increasing fairness, efficiency and stability are some of the approaches to obtain better cooperation. I am optimistic that human society will become more cooperative and fair as well. Cooperation may become easier, as people can get informed and connected more easily.
- What made you decide to go into the field of research?
HA: During my BSc. from Lahore University of Management Sciences [LUMS], I got a nudge towards research from Prof. Sarmad Abbasi and [late] Prof. Zaeem Jafri. Then, I was fortunate to get a scholarship from Oxford University to pursue an MSc. During my time at Oxford, I got increasingly interested in research. At that time, Warwick University was the centre of excellence in game theory in the UK. So, after my MSc, I started a PhD there under Prof. Mike Paterson. After PhD, I was keen to work in Germany with Prof. Felix Brandt, whose research greatly impressed me. My postdoctorate in Munich, Germany paved a way towards a research career. Currently, I am working at Data61, a data innovation and research cell in Australia, and the University of New South Wales [UNSW] in Sydney. Generally speaking, I like mathematical research because I find it creative and intellectually stimulating. I have been fortunate in having great collaborators and peers from whom Iíve learnt a lot.
- How do you think society can progress from the state it is in now, and how do you see your work being a part of that?
HA: Society is continuously progressing as human knowledge increases and scientific discoveries are made. In terms of knowledge advancement, I am happy to be playing my miniscule role just like other scientists. It is important to remember how scientific advancement can help in improving societal welfare. In this context, I feel that AI has a useful role to play. For example, interesting applications of AI include efficient algorithms for centralized organ exchange markets, and randomized game theoretic approaches for protecting our infrastructure. I hope I can contribute towards similar goals. Finally, I find student supervision and mentoring a very fulfilling and important responsibility that is also helpful to society.