UW CSE professor Pedro Domingos is generating considerable buzz with his new book, The Master Algorithm, “a popular science romp through one of today’s hottest scientific topics.” In the book, Pedro explores how machine learning is increasingly shaping the way we live and what he and his colleagues are doing to find the “Master Algorithm” – the ultimate learning algorithm that will be able to do what we want before we even have to ask.
UW Today has a terrific Q&A with Pedro about the book and his thoughts on a range of topics related to machine learning — from its potential role in finding a cure for cancer, to how President Obama’s campaign used it to win reelection, to teaching recommendation algorithms to work for YOU rather than for the companies trying to sell you things.
He also explains why we have nothing to fear from “The Terminator” films:
“Computers could be infinitely intelligent and not pose any danger to us, provided we set the goals and all they do is figure out how to achieve them — like curing cancer.
“On the other hand, computers can easily make serious mistakes by not understanding what we asked them to do or by not knowing enough about the real world, like the proverbial sorcerer’s apprentice. The cure for that is to make them more intelligent. People worry that computers will get too smart and take over the world, but the real problem is that they’re too stupid and they’ve already taken over the world.”
Pedro concludes by explaining where we are in the quest to find this elusive algorithm capable of knowing all things from data, and what inspired him to write about it:
“It could happen tomorrow, or it could take many decades. One of my fondest hopes in writing the eponymous book is that it will inspire a bright kid somewhere to come up with the key idea that we’ve all been missing — and make the Master Algorithm a reality, with all the extraordinary benefits for humanity that will follow.”
Read the full Q&A here.
You can hear more of Pedro’s thoughts on this topic when he speaks at Seattle’s Town Hall next Tuesday, September 22 at 7:30 pm. Find more details on that event here.
Press: Read The Wall Street Journal article here and The Washington Post article here. Listen to Pedro being interviewed on NPR’s Marketplace here.