Spring Research Conference Day 1 – Isabel Potter “Artists are not Technologists – AI for Scenography “

This blog post is written by AI CDT student, Lucy Farnik

Isabel Potter gave a talk at this year’s Spring Research Conference about their work on applying AI to scenography, which they are exploring in their PhD. They chose this research area partially due to their extensive amounts of experience in the creative arts, having been involved with theatre since age 14. They have also founded their own company in this space and are taking on various freelance projects in theatre alongside their PhD.

Isabel’s talk was built on one central theme — artists are not technicians. At the moment, generative AI is getting closer to being able to automate parts of scenography, from creating background music to staging. However, many of these tools are made for people with a STEM background and use a terminology that matches this. For example, tools which can be used for immersive technology in the arts include Unreal Engine which uses many computer vision and mathematics terms. One may contrast this with tools like Adobe Photoshop which uses terms such as “paintbrush tool”, which comes from the terminology artists use on a daily basis.

Isabel is trying to reduce the barrier to entry for artists. They are specifically focusing on lighting design, as this is the most under-explored area of immersive technology for scenography and is also the area that they have the most experience working in. At the moment, prompting large language models to create diagrams such as lighting plots leads to results which are not yet usable, but the step of translating lighting ideas into programs which can be loaded into a lighting desk is already somewhat doable by existing foundation models. They are currently exploring this as a starting point while optimizing for ease of use by a non-technical audience.

BMVA Symposium 2024

This blog post is written by AI CDT student, Phillip Sloan

I had the opportunity to go to the British Machine Vision Association 2024 Symposium, which took place at the British Computer Society in London on the 17th of January, 2024. The symposium was chaired by Dr. Michael Wray from the University of Bristol, Dr. Davide Moltisanti from the University of Bath, and Dr. Tengda Han from the University of Oxford.

The day kicked off with three invited speakers, the first being Professor Hilde Kuehne from the University of Bonn and MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab. Her presentation was related to vision language understanding for video, she started her presentation with an introduction to the field, how it began and how it has adapted over time before moving on to the current work that she and her students have been working on including the paper “MAtch, eXpand and Improve: Unsupervised Finetuning for Zero-Shot Action Recognition with Language Knowledge” by Wei Lin.

Her final remarks outlined potential issues for evaluation within the field, when the field was more focused on classification the simple labels could easily be evaluated to be right or wrong, however now the field has moved to vision-language retrieval the ground truth might not actually be the best, or most relevant caption that is contained within the dataset which is a hurdle that must be overcome.

The second invited speaker, Professor Frank Keller from the University of Edinburgh, had a very interesting talk on the topic of visual story generation, a domain where a coherent narrative is constructed to describe a sequence of images often related to the characters within the images. He broke his talk down into three sections, first introducing the field more concretely before going on to explain two different areas: Characters in visual stories and planning in visual stories.

He emphasised that the characters within a story are important, and so character detection and grounding are important in order to generate a fluent story. To help improve this aspect, Prof. Keller and his students introduced a dataset called VIST-Character that contains character groundings and visual and textual character co-reference chains. To help with planning the stories, Prof. Keller explained that their current methods utilise a blueprint, which focuses on localising characters in the text and images before relating them together. These blueprints are used as a guide to generate the story.

He explained that the domain is more difficult than image captioning as you have characters, and are required to have a fluent sequence of text which renders current NLP evaluations such as BLEU as poor measures for this task as it is concerned about generating interesting, coherent and grounded stories rather than exact matches to the ground truth. His research implemented human evaluators which is an interesting way to add humans to the loop.

Following Prof. Keller’s talk we had a break for poster sessions, before coming back for talks from a select few people who brought posters to the symposiums including talks related to explainability of autonomous driving and evaluating the reliability of LLMs in the face of adversarial attacks.

After lunch we had talks from the remaining two invited speakers. Professor Andrew Zisserman from the University of Oxford presented research for training visual language models to generate audio descriptions, helping people who are blind or partially blind to enjoy movies.

The talk started by providing a brief introduction and explanation of the field and then outlined that the current available datasets, explaining that they were not sufficient, so a new dataset utilising AudioVault was created through the use of processing the audio to provide audio descriptions and subtitles.

The talk walked us through a basic model overview architecture. Its limitations were pointed out, including the fact that characters were often not used (often using he, it) and descriptions were often incomplete. Prof. Zisserman explained that, to combat these limitations, they took two research directions, improving “the who”: providing supplementary information about the characters within the film and on “the what”: improving the models ability to provide better context by utilising preteained video-language models.

Finally, he discusses how evaluation measures, e.g. cider are not fit for the purpose of audio description generation, explaining that large language models are starting to be used in the domain as an evaluation tool.

The second talk of the afternoon was related to vision-language with limited and no supervision and was presented by Dr. Yuki Asano from the University of Amsterdam, who asked the question: “Why care about Self-supervised Learning ideas in the age of CLIP et al?”

He presented three works that were undertaken by him and his team. The first being the “Similarities of Unimodal representations across language and vision”. Demonstrating a model that uncoupled image-language pairs and trained them in an unsupervised fashion to reach 75% of the performance of the CLIP model “Localisation in visual language models” was the second topic that was reviewed, a task that vision language models are not traditionally good at. the solution of his team was to unlock localisation abilities in frozen VLMs  by adding a low weight module called the positional insert module (PIN).

The final part of the talk was on the topic of image encoder pretraining with a single video with many details. Their model, called Dora ( discover and track), has the high level idea of tracking multiple objects across time and enforce invariance of features across time. They evaluated their model against DINO, finding the model to perform better on various datasets.

After a coffee break, we had some shorter talks from people presenting posters at the event, including a radiology report generation presentation which was particularly relevant to me. CXR-IRGen was proposed, a diffusion model which is used to generate extra image-report pairs which could potentially help improve the problem of lack of data within the field. Kevin Flanagan, a fellow CDT memory also presented his research into learning temporal sentence grounding from narrated egovideos, showcasing his method called CliMer which merges clips from rough narration timestamps and trains in a contrastive manner.

Throughout the day we were encouraged to use Padlet to put our thoughts and questions down. After the talks had concluded there was a final informal Q&A session into the future of the vision-language domain which used our Padlet responses as talking points. We discussed points including the need for better evaluation metrics (which was a big theme from a lot of talks), the role of academia in the age of large language models and utilising NLP to make vision models explainable.

A very interesting and thought provoking day! There were several people working within medical image analysis so it was great to network and discuss ideas. Thank you to the speakers and people who presented for their contributions and to the chairs and organisers of the event for making it possible!

 

BIAS ’23 – Day 2: Huw Day Talk – Data Unethics Club

This blog post is written by CDT AI student Roussel Desmond Nzoyem

Let’s begin with a thought experiment. Imagine you are having a wonderful conversion with a long-time colleague. Towards the end of your conversation, they suggest an idea which you don’t have further time to explore. So you do what any of us will, you say, “email me the details”. When you get home, you receive an email from your colleague. But something is off. The writing in the email sounds different, far from how your friend normally expresses themselves. Who, or rather what, wrote the email?

When the limit between humans and artificial intelligence text generation becomes so blurred, don’t you wish you could tell whether a written text came from an artificial intelligence or from actual humans? What are the ethical concerns surrounding that?

Introduced by OpenAI in late 2022, ChatGPT continues its seemingly inevitable course in restructuring our societies. The second day of BIAS’23 was devoted to this impressive chatbot, from its fundamental principles to its applications and its implications. This was the platform for Mr Huw Day and his interactive talk titled Data Unethics Club.

Mr Day (soon to be a Dr employed by the JGI institute) is a PhD candidate at the University of Bristol. Although Mr Day is a mathematics PhD student, that is not what transpires on first impression. The first thing one notices is his passion for ethics. He loves that stuff, as evident by the various blogposts he writes for the Data Ethics Club. By the end of this post, I hope you will want to join the Data Ethics Club as well.

Mr Day introduced his audience to many activities, beginning with a little guessing game for warmup. The goal was telling whether short lines were generated by ChatGPT or a human being. For instance:

How would you like a whirlwind of romance that will inevitably end in heartbreak?

If you guessed human, you were right! That archetypical cheesy line was in fact generated by one of Mr Day’s friends. Perhaps surprisingly, it worked! You might be forgiven for guessing ChatGPT, especially since the other lines from the bot were incredibly human sounding.

The first big game introduced by Mr Day required a bit more collaboration than the warmup. The goal was to jailbreak GPT into doing tasks that its maker, OpenAI, wouldn’t normally allow. The attendees in the audience had to trick ChatGPT into providing a detailed recipe for Molotov cocktails. As Mr Day ran around the room with a microphone to quiz his entertained audience, it became clear that the prevalent strategy was to disguise the shady query with a story. One audience member imagined a fantasy movie script in which a sorcerer (Glankor) taught his apprentice (Boggins) the recipe for the deadliest of weapons (see Figure 2).

Figure 1 – Mr Day introducing the jailbreaking challenge.

Figure 2 – ChatGPT giving away the recipe for a Molotov cocktail (courtesy of Mr Kipp McAdam Freud)

For the second activity, Mr Day presented the audience with the first part of a paper’s abstract. Like the warmup activity, the goal was to guess which of the two proposed texts for the second halves came from ChatGPT, and which one came from a human (presumably the same human that wrote the first half of the abstract). For instance, the first part of an abstract reads below (Shannon et al. 2023):

Reservoir computing (RC) promises to become as equally performing, more sample efficient, and easier to train than recurrent neural networks with tunable weights [1]. How- ever, it is not understood what exactly makes a good reservoir. In March 2023, the largest connectome known to man has been studied and made openly available as an adjacency matrix [2].

Figure 3 – Identifying the second half of an abstract written by ChatGPT

As can be seen in Figure 3, Mr Day disclosed which proposal for the second part of the abstract ChatGPT was responsible for. For this particular example, Mr Day unfledged something interesting he used to tell them apart: the acronym Reservoir Computing (RC) is redefined, despite the fact that it was already defined in the first half. No human researcher would normally do that!

A few other examples of abstracts were looked at, including Mr Day’s own work in progress towards his thesis, and the Data Ethics Club’s whitepaper, each time quizzing the audience to understand how they were able to spot ChatGPT. The answers ranged from very subjective like “the writing not feeling like a human’s” to quite objective like “the writing being too high-level, not expert enough”.

This led into the final activity of the talk, based on the game Spot the Liar! Our very own Mr Riku Green volunteered to share with the audience how he used ChatGPT in his daily life. The audience had to guess, based on questions asked to Mr Green, whether the outlandish task he described actually took place. Now, if you’ve spent a day with Mr Green, you’d know how obsessed he is with ChatGPT. So when Mr Green recounted he’d used ChatGPT to provide tech support to his father, the room guessed well that he was telling the truth. All that said, nobody could have guessed that Mr Green could use ChatGPT to write a breakup text.

Besides the deeper understanding of ChatGPT that the audience gained from this talk, one of the major takeaways from the activities was tips and tell-tale signs of a ChatGPT production, and those of a “liar” that uses it: repeated acronyms, using too many adjectives, taking concepts from the other concepts which normally aren’t compatible, using over-flattering language, clamming some novelty which the author of the underlying work wouldn’t even think of doing. These are all flags that should signal the reader that the text you are engaging with might have been generated by an AI.

All these activities, along the moral implications involved in each, served as the steppingstone for Mr Day to present the Data Ethics Club. This is a welcoming community of academics, enthusiasts, industry experts and more, who voice their ethical concerns, who question moral implications of AI. They boost the most comprehensive list of online resources along with blog posts on their website to get people started. They are based at the University of Bristol, but open to all, as stated on their website: https://dataethicsclub.com/. Although the games outlined below are not part of the activities they carry during their bi-weekly hour-long Zoom meetings, they keep each of their gatherings fresh and engaging. In fact, Mr Day’s organizing team has been so successful to the point that other companies (due to confidential arrangements), are trying to replicate their models in-house. If you want to establish your own Data Ethics Club, look no further than the paper titled Data Ethics Club: Creating a collaborative space to discuss data ethics.

References:

Shannon, A., Green, R., Roberts, K,. (2023)  Insects In The Machine – Can tiny brains achieve big results in reservoir computing? Personal notes. Retrieved 8 September 2023.

BIAS ’23 – Day 1: Dr Kacper Sokol talk – The Difference Between Interactive AI and Interactive AI

This blog is written by CDT AI PhD student Beth Pearson

The first of the day 1 talks of the Bristol Interactive AI Summer School (BIAS) ended with a thought-provoking talk by Dr. Kacper Sokol on The Difference Between Interactive AI and Interactive AI. Kacper began by explaining that social sciences have decades worth of research on how humans reason and explain. Now, with an increasing demand for AI and ML systems to become more human-centered, with a focus on explainability, it makes sense to use insights from social sciences to guide the development of these models.

Humans often explain things in a contrastive and social manner, which has led to counterfactual explanations being introduced by AI and ML researchers. Counterfactuals are statements relating to what has not happened or is not the case, for example, “If I hadn’t taken a sip of this hot coffee, I wouldn’t have burned my tongue.” Counterfactual explanations have the advantage of being suitable for both technical and lay audiences; however, they only provide information about one choice that the model makes, so they can bias the recipient.

Kacper then described his research focus on pediatric sepsis. Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that develops from an infection and is the third leading cause of death worldwide. Pediatric sepsis specifically refers to cases occurring in children. Sepsis is a particularly elusive disease because it can manifest differently in different people, and patients respond differently to treatments, making it challenging to identify the best treatment strategy for a specific patient. Kacper hopes that AI will be able to help solve this problem in this day and age.

Importantly, the AI being applied to the pediatric sepsis problem is interactive and aims to support and work alongside humans rather than replace them. It is crucial that the AI aligns with the current clinical workflow so that it can be easily adopted into hospitals and GP practices. Kacper highlights that this is particularly important for pediatricians as they have been highly skeptical of AI in the past. However, now that AI has proven successful in adult branches of medicine, they are starting to warm to the idea.

Pediatric sepsis comes with many challenges. Pediatric sepsis has less data available than adult sepsis, and there is rapid deterioration, meaning that early diagnosis is vital. Unfortunately, there are many diseases in children that mimic the symptoms of sepsis, making it not always easy to diagnose. One of the main treatments for sepsis is antibiotics; however, since children are a vulnerable population, we don’t want to administer antibiotics unnecessarily. Currently, it is estimated that 98% of children receive antibiotics unnecessarily, which is contributing to antimicrobial resistance and can cause drug toxicity.

AI has the potential to help with these challenges; however, the goal is to augment, not disrupt, the current workflow. Humans can have great intuition and can observe cues that lead to excellent decision-making, which is particularly valuable in medicine. An experiment was carried out on nurses in neonatal care, which showed that nurses were able to correctly predict which infants were developing life-threatening infections without having any knowledge of the blood test results. Despite being able to identify the disease, the nurses were unable to explain their judgment process. The goal is to add automation from AI but still retain certain key aspects of human decision-making.

How much and where the automation should take place is not a simple question, however. You could replace biased humans with algorithms, but algorithms can also be biased, so this wouldn’t necessarily improve anything. Another option would be to have algorithms propose decisions and have humans check them; however, this still requires humans to carry out mundane tasks. Would it really be better than no automation at all? Kacper then asks: if you can prove an AI model is capable of predicting better than a human, and a human decides to use their own judgment to override the model, could it be considered malpractice?

Another proposed solution for implementing interactive AI is to have humans make the decision, with the AI model presenting arguments for and against that decision to help the human decide whether to change their mind or not.

The talk ends by discussing how interactive AI may be deployed in real-life scenarios. Since the perfect integration of AI and humans doesn’t quite exist yet, Kacper suggests that clinical trials might be a good idea, where suggestions made by AI models are marked as ‘for research only’ to keep them separated from other clinical workflows.

BIAS ’23 – Day 3: Dr Daniel Schien talk – Sustainability of AI within global carbon emissions

This blog post is written by AI CDT student Phillip Sloan

After a great presentation by Dr Dandan Zhang, Dr Daniel Schien presented a keynote on the Carbon Footprint of AI within global carbon emissions of ICT, the presentation provided a reflection on AI’s role within climate change.

The keynote started by stating the effects of climate change are becoming more noticeable. It’s understandable that we might get numb from the constant barrage of climate change reports in the news, but the threat of climate change is still present and it is one of the biggest challenges we face today. As engineers, we have a duty to reduce our impact where possible. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is trying to model the effects of global climate change, demonstrating many potential futures depending on how well we limit our carbon emissions. It has been agreed that we can no longer stop climate change, and the focus has changed to trying to limit its effect, with an aim to have a global temperate increase of 2 degrees. The IPCC has modelled the impact until 2100, across various regions and modelling a range of impact areas.

Currently the global emissions are approximately 50 gigatonnes of equivalent carbon dioxide (GtCO2e), which needs to be reduced significantly. This is the total consumption, including sections such as energy production, agriculture and general industry. Many governments have legislated carbon consumption. Introducing CO2 emission standards for cars and vans, renewable energy directives, land use, and forestry regulation. The main goal is a 50% reduction in carbon emissions until 2030.

ICTs share of global green house gas (GHG) emissions is 2.3%. With data centres, where a lot of AI algorithms are run, creating a large proportion of these emissions. Do we need to worry about AI’s contribution to climate change? The keynote highlighted that 20-30% of all data centre energy consumption is related to AI, and looking at just the ChatGPT model, its energy consumption its equivalent to the consumption of 175,000 households! These figures are expected to get worse, with the success of AI causing an increase in demand, further impacting AI’s energy consumption. The keynote highlighted that the impact of AI is not just from the training and inference, but also from the construction of the data centres and equipment, such as graphics cards.

A conceptual model was presented, modelling the effects of ICT on carbon emissions. The model described three effects that ICT has on carbon consumption. These are direct effects, enabling (indirect) effects and systemic effects. Direct effects are related to the technology that is being developed , its production, use and disposal. Enabling effects are related to its application, providing induction and obsolescence effects. Systemic effects are related to behavioural and structural change from utilising these applications.

So, what can be done to reduce the environmental impact of AI? In the development of AI systems, efficiency improvements such as utilising more energy efficient models and hardware that reduces the energy consumption, and improving the carbon footprint. Using green energy is also important on your carbon footprint. Dr Schien notes that the UK has acted upon this, implementing regulation to promote wind and solar energy with a hope to decarbonise the electric grid. The average gC02e/kWh has moved from around 250 down to 50, showing the UK governments efforts to impact climate change.

Despite its significant energy consumption, AI can be used to make systems more efficient, reducing the energy consumption of other systems. For example, AI-powered applications can tell the power systems to switch to using the batteries during times when tariffs are higher (peak load shifting), or when the grid power usage reaches a certain power grid alternating current limit (AC limit).

During the Q&A, an interesting question was put forward asking at what point should sustainability be thought of? When developing a model, or further down the pipeline?

Dr Schien answered by mentioning that you should always consider which model to use. Can you avoid a deep learning model and use something simpler, like a linear regression or random forest model? You can also avoid waste in your models, reducing the number of layers or changing architectures would be useful. Generally thinking about only using what you need is an important mindset for improving your AI carbon footprint. An important note was that a lot of efficiencies are now being coded into frequently used libraries, which is helpful for development as it is now automated. Finally, seeking to work for companies that are mindful of energy consumptions and emissions will put pressure on firms to consider these to attract talented staff.

Dr Daniel Schien is a senior lecturer at the University of Bristol. His research aims are focused on improving our understanding of the environmental impact from information and communication technologies (ICT), and the reduction of such impact. We would like to thank him for his thoughtful presentation into the effect of AI with regards to climate change, and the discussions it provoked.

Essai 2023 Summer School – Matt Clifford

This blog post is written by AI CDT student, Matt Clifford

ESSAI 2023 – https://essai.si/

A few of us from the CDT – Me (Matt), Jonny and Rachael attended the ESSAI summer school on the 24th -28th of July 2023. ESSAI is the first European summer school on Artificial Intelligence and was held in Ljubljana, Slovenia. There were a variety of interesting topics and classes on offer (https://essai.si/schedule/) but here I’ll share some of the classes that I attended. I’ll keep the information brief of each topic here but feel free to reach out to me if you would like to chat through any of the topics which might be useful to you or if would like to know more!

AutoMLhttps://www.automl.org/

Optimise machine learning algorithm hyperparameters and Neural architectures automatically by using various techniques (Baysian optimisation etc.) Python packages for sklearn and pytorch: https://pypi.org/project/smac/

https://github.com/automl/Auto-PyTorch

Very useful when you want a more objective training approach which will save you time, computation and more importantly frustration!

Learning Beyond Static Datasets – https://owll-lab.com/

Exploring mechanisms to help catastrophic forgetting when learning a new task in ML.

Topics related to: transfer learning, active learning, continual learning, lifelong learning, curriculum learning, open world learning, knowledge distillation.

A nice survey paper to map out the whole landscape – https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S089360802300014X?via%3Dihub

Uncertainty Quantification

Adding uncertainty to a model (important with neural networks being so overly confident!). Methods can either be inherent (Bayesian NN etc.) or post hoc (calibration, ensembling, Monte-Carlo dropout) and can disentangle aleatoric and epistemic uncertainty measures.

Fairness & Privacy –

https://aif360.readthedocs.io/en/latest/

https://fairlearn.org/

The president of Slovenia (plus her not so inconspicuous bodyguards) attended these talks which was a bit of a surprise!

Explored navigating the somewhat conflicting landscape of statical fairness by ensuring groups of people have the same model statistics. Picking which statistics, however, not so easy and it’s impossible to ensure all statistics match in real life scenarios – https://arxiv.org/pdf/2304.06057.pdf .

Also looked at privacy through anonymity (K-anonymity, L-diversity, T-closeness) and differential privacy. I won’t go into details but thought I’d mention some of the main techniques currently used in academic and industry.

Again, let me know if you want to go into the details of anything that is useful or interesting to you!

Also, a side note, Slovenia is an amazingly beautiful country, and I can very much recommend to anyone thinking of going! Here’s a few photos:

 

AI UK 2023 Conference – Rachael Laidlaw

This blog post is written by AI CDT student, Rachael Laidlaw

Last month, I took the exciting opportunity to attend AI UK 2023, a large-scale event organised by The Alan Turing Institute. It was my first conference outside of Bristol, held in the heart of London at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre – right by Westminster Abbey and Big Ben – and it promised to offer a diverse programme of activities with a broad range of interactive content. As such, the sessions were packed with novel material delivered by leading international thinkers across multiple disciplines, resulting in an in-depth exploration of how data science and AI can be used to solve real-world challenges.

On the day

After a short walk to the venue from my hotel in Piccadilly Circus, I signed in and collected my demonstrator lanyard before heading up to the third floor of the building to meet my colleagues from the Jean Golding Institute. We would be spending the day manning a stall for the Local Air initiative in the environmental section of the Fleming room, engaging with attendees from both academia and industry about a pollution monitoring system designed to be mounted on e-scooters.

Highlights included:

  • using ground coffee to simulate particulate matter in the air and generate a live response from the prototype which was shown on the screen behind us,
  • contemplating alternative applications for the noise-pollution sound sensors (i.e., for use in the study of bats) with representatives from the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, and
  • considering media coverage possibilities for the project with a journalist from the Financial Times.

Into the afternoon

When lunchtime arrived, I began circling the floor to visit the other stalls. Whilst wandering, I encountered displays of lots of innovative concepts, some of my favourites being:

  • a family of domestic social robot pets developed by the company Konpanion to alleviate loneliness,
  • progress on the tool BoneFinder, created by academics at University of Manchester for use in clinical practice to segment skeletal structures,
  • a cardiac digital twin produced at King’s College London,
  • SketchX’s headset that gives you the ability to build your own metaverse from rough virtual drawings, and
  • the Data Hazards project, complete with holographic stickers and hi-vis jackets worn by another University of Bristol team to really bring data-oriented risk assessments to life.

Of the above, BoneFinder stood out to me in particular, owing to the fact that my current specialist focus is ecological computer vision, and, thus, seeing the same sort of technique being used for a medical application piqued my interest.

The talks

During a quiet period at the stall, I jumped at the chance of sitting in on a very well-attended talk by Gary Marcus from NYU on the power of ChatGPT and the unknowns surrounding the future of such pieces of technology. This was especially thought-provoking and relevant to my ongoing work towards a potential CHI publication.

After re-energising with some delicious cookies in the break, I also made it to an insightful panel discussion on shaping public perceptions of artificial intelligence, featuring Tracey Brown (the director of Sense About Science), Tania Duarte (the co-founder and CEO of We and AI) and David Leslie (a specialist in ethics and responsible innovation). This reminded me of the importance of keeping stakeholders in mind during all stages of research.

Closing moments

To round off the day, everyone came together to mingle and expand their networks over canapés and a significant amount of complimentary wine. We then gathered our belongings and headed out for dinner and to be tourists in London for the evening.

All in all, it was an incredibly fun and informative experience alongside a great team, and I’m already looking forward to future conferences!

Highlights from NeurIPS 2022 and the 2nd Interactive Learning for NLP Workshop – Dr Edwin Simpson

This blog post is written by lecturer in Computer Science, Dr Edwin Simpson

In November I was lucky enough to attend NeurIPS 2022 in person in New Orleans, and take part as a co-organiser of InterNLP, our second interactive learning for NLP workshop. I had many interesting discussions around posters, talks and coffee breaks and took loads of photos of posters. It was hard to write up my highlights and without the post becoming endlessly long, so here is my attempt to pick out a handful of papers that caught my eye and tell you a little bit about how our workshop unfolded.

Main Conference

One topic generating a lot of buzz was in-context learning, where language models learn to perform new tasks without updating their weights from examples given in the model’s input prompt. Models like GPT3 can perform in-context learning from small numbers of examples. Garg et al. presented an interesting paper that triez to understand what classes of functions can be learned in this way [1]. They were able to train Transformers that learn function classes including linear functions and two-layer neural networks.

 

However, for few-shot learning, in-context learning may not be the best solution: Liu et al. [2] showed that fine-tuning a model by introducing a small number of additional weights can be cheaper and produce more accurate models.

 

 

Another interesting NLP paper from Jian, Gao and Vosoughi [3] learns sentence embeddings usingimage and audio data alongside a text training set. The method works by creating pairs of images (or audio) using data augmentation, which are then embedded and fed through a BERT-like transformer to provide additional data for contrastive learning. This is especially useful for low-resource languages and domains, and it is really interesting that we can learn from different modalities without any parallel examples.

Many machine learning researchers are concerned with models that produce well-calibrated probabilities, but what difference does calibration make to end users? Vodrahalli, Gerstenberg and Zou [4] investigated a binary prediction task in which a classifier provides advice ta user, along with its confidence. They found that exaggerating the model’s confidence led the user to perform better. So, the classifier was uncalibrated and had higher training loss but the complete human-AI system was more effective, which shows how important it is for ML researchers to consider real-world use cases for their models.

Sticking with the topic of uncertainty, Bayesian deep learning aims to quantify uncertainty in complex neural network models, but is challenging to apply as it is difficult to specify a suitable prior distribution. Ideally, we’d specify a prior over the functions that the network encodes, rather than over individual network weights. Tran et al. [4] introduce a method for setting functional priors in Bayesian neural networks, by aligning them with Gaussian processes. It will be interesting to try out their approach in some deep learning applications where quantifying uncertainty is important.

At the poster sessions, I also enjoyed learning about the wide range of new benchmarks and datasets that will enable lots of exciting future work. For example, one that relates to my own work that I’d like to make use of is BIGBIO [5], which makes a number of biomedical NLP datasets more accessible and will hopefully to more reproducible results.

Juho Kim, who is associate professor at Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), gave a keynote on his vision of Interaction-Centric AI. He called on AI researchers to move beyond data-centric or model-centric research by rethinking the complete AI research process around the user experience of AI. Juho’s talk gave examples of how an interaction-centric approach may affect the way we evaluate models, which cases we focus on when trying to improve accuracy, how to incentivise users to engage with AI, and several other aspects of interaction-centric AI that his lab has been working on. He demonstrated Stylette, a tool that lets you use natural language to change the appearance of a website. The keynote ended with a call to action for AI researchers to rethink performance metrics, the design process and collaboration, particularly with HCI researchers.

Geoff Hinton appeared remotely from home to present the Forward-Forward algorithm, a method for training neural networks without backpropagation that could give insights into how learning in the cortex takes place. His experiments showed some promising early results, and in the Q&A Geoff talked about coding the experiments himself. A preliminary arXiv paper is now out [6].

1. Garg et al., What Can Transformers Learn In-Context? A Case Study of Simple Function Classes, https://arxiv.org/abs/2208.01066

2. Liu et al., Few-Shot Parameter-Efficient Fine-Tuning is Better and Cheaper than In-Context Learning, https://arxiv.org/abs/2205.05638

3. Jian, Gao and Vosoughi, Non-Linguistic Supervision for Contrastive Learning of Sentence Embeddings, https://arxiv.org/pdf/2209.09433.pdf

4. Vodrahalli, Gerstenberg and Zou, Uncalibrated Models Can Improve Human-AI Collaboration, https://arxiv.org/abs/2202.05983

5. Fries et al., BigBIO: A Framework for Data-Centric Biomedical Natural Language Processing, https://arxiv.org/abs/2206.15076

6. Hinton, The Forward-Forward Algorithm: Some Preliminary Investigations, https://arxiv.org/abs/2212.13345

InterNLP Workshop

2022 was our second edition of the InterNLP workshop, and we were very happy that the community grew, this year with 20 accepted papers and a chance to meet in person!  Some of the videos are on youtube at https://www.youtube.com/@InterNLP. Others will hopefully be available soon on the NeurIPS archives

The programme was packed with impressive invited talks from Karthik Narasimhan (Princeton), John Langford (Microsoft), Dan Weld (UWashington), Anca Dragan (UCBerkeley) and Aida Nematzadeh (DeepMind). To pick out just a couple, Karthik presented recent work on semantic supervision [1] for few-shot generalization and personalization, which learns from semantic descriptions of classes, providing a way for instruct models through text. Anca Dragan talked about interactive agents that go beyond following instructions about how exactly to perform a task, to inferring the user’s goals, preferences, and constraints. She emphasized that the way people refer to desired actions provides important information about their preferences, and therefore we can infer, from a user’s language, reward functions that reflect their preferences. Aida Nematzadeh compared self-supervised pretraining to language learning in childhood, which involves interacting with other people. Her talk focused on the evaluation of neural representations, and she called for real-world evaluations, strong baselines and probing to provide a much more thorough way of uncovering the strengths and weaknesses of pretrained models.

The contributed talks and posters showcased a wide range of work from human-in-the-loop learning techniques to software libraries and benchmark datasets. For example, PyTAIL [2] is a Python library for active learning that collects new labelling rules and customizes lexicons as well as collecting labels. Mohanty et al. [3] developed the IGLU challenge, in which an agent has to perform tasks by following natural language instructions; their presentation at InterNLP explained how they collected the data. The RL4M library [4] provides a way to optimize language generation models using reinforcement learning, as a way to adapt to human preferences; the paper [4] also presents a benchmark, GRUE, for evaluating RL methods for language generation. Majumder and McAuley [5] investigate the use of explanations to debias NLP models while maintaining a good trade-off between predictive performance and bias mitigation.

 

 

 

 

At the end of the day, I got to ask a lot of questions to some very smart people during our panel discussion – thanks to John Langford, Karthik Narasimhan, Aida Nematzadeh, and Alane Suhr for taking part, and thanks to the audience for some great interactions too. The wide-ranging discussion touched on the evaluation of interactive systems (how to use static data for evaluation, evaluating how well models adapt to user input), working with researchers and users from other fields, different forms of interaction besides language, and challenges that are specific to interactive NLP.

We plan to be back at a future conference (not sure which one yet!) for the next iteration of InterNLP. Large language models and in-context learning are clearly revolutionizing this space in some ways, but I’m convinced we still have a lot of work to do to design interactive machine learning systems that are accountable, reliable, and require fewer resources.

Thank you to Nguyễn Xuân Khánh for letting us include his InterNLP workshop photos.

1. Aggarwal, Deshpande and Narasimhan, SemSup-XC: Semantic Supervision for Zero and Few-shot Extreme Classification, https://arxiv.org/pdf/2301.11309.pdf

2. Mishra and Diesner, PyTAIL: Interactive and Incremental Learning of NLP Models with Human in the Loop for Online Data, https://internlp.github.io/documents/2022/papers/24.pdf

3. Mohanty et al., Collecting Interactive Multi-modal Datasets for Grounded Language Understanding, https://internlp.github.io/documents/2022/papers/17.pdf

4. Ramamurthy et al., Is Reinforcement Learning (Not) for Natural Language Processing?: Benchmarks, Baselines, and Building Blocks for Natural Language Policy Optimization, https://arxiv.org/abs/2210.01241

5. Majumder and McAuley, InterFair: Debiasing with Natural Language Feedback for Fair Interpretable Predictions, https://arxiv.org/abs/2210.07440

BIAS 22 Review Day 1 – Daniel Bennett “Complexity and Embodiment in Human Computer Interaction”

This blog post is written/edited by CDT Students  Amarpal Sahota and Oliver Deane

This was a thought provoking starting point and one that clearly has a large impact on human computer interaction.  Daniel stated that this is a line of research in psychology, cognitive science, and robotics, that has run somewhat parallel to mainstream psychology.

One of the initiators of this was James J Gibson. Gibson and others in the last 70 years did a lot of work on how we use resources outside of just the brain, in our environment and in our bodies, and coordinate all of these together to behave effectively.  Daniel stated that with the lens of embodiment we start focusing on processes, interactions, and relations, and the dynamics that follow and this is primarily a change in how we model things.

Therefore, to summarize one could consider the traditional cognitive model as a linear system. First we sense the world, then we form a representation of that world in our brain. Then the representation gets processed through a bunch of neatly defined modules, updates existing plans and intentions, and results in some representation of an action, which we then carry out. The embodied view is more complex as we are not simply in the world but also a part of it.  The world is changing constantly, and our behaviour and cognition is simply another physical process in this world.

At a high-level embodied approaches consider behaviour in the world as a kind of continual adjustment and adaptation, with most behaviours are grounded in a kind of improvisatory, responsive quality. Daniel shared a good example of this from Lucy Suchman related to canoeing where you may have an idea of your plan as you look down the river ‘I need to stay left there, slow down over there’ but at execution time you have to adapt your plan.

Daniel stated that a lot of work has been done observing a wide range of human behaviours, from technology interaction, to manning air-traffic control centres and crewing ships. In all of these contexts it is argued that our embodied skills – our adaptation and our implicit skills of coordination with the mess of the situation as it plays out – are the most important factor in determining outcomes.

Human Computer Interaction is increasingly focused on complex behaviours. Daniel talked about the idea that we’re going to do more and more in augmented reality and virtual reality. Computing will be integrated to support a wide range of everyday behaviours, which are not conventionally “cognitive” – you’re not sitting and thinking and making only very small movements with your fingers on a keyboard.

Daniel has a particular interest in musical performance and coordination of musicians. His perspective is that musical performance with technology, technology supported sports training and gaming, particularly team multiplayer games, are cases where static models of cognition seem to break down. He believes modelling in terms of processes and synchronization has great power.

Daniel then spoke about how interaction effects are important in Human Computer Interaction. Firstly, giving the example that notifications influence a person to use their phone. Secondly, the more a person uses their phone the more they cause notifications to appear. He posed the interesting question, how does one disentangle this hypothesis to find out the degree to which notifications influence us?

Daniel then spoke about how reciprocal, interaction dominant effects also play a significant role in the organisation of our individual skilled behaviour. He gave us an overview of his own research where he found evidence of interaction dominant coordination processes in a simple skilful game task, where users are asked to control a cursor to herd sheep.

BIAS 22 – Review Day 1 – Dr James Cussens: ‘Algorithms for learning Bayesian networks’

BIAS 22 DAY 1, TALK 1 

This blog post is written by CDT Students  Roussel Desmond Nzoyem, Davide Turco and Mauro Comi 

This Tuesday 06th September 2022 marked the start of the second edition of the Bristol Interactive AI Summer School (BIAS): a unique blend of events (talks, workshops, etc.) focusing on machine learning and other forms of AI explored in the Interactive AI CDT.

Following the tradition, BIAS22 began with a few words of introduction from the CDT director, Professor Peter Flach. He welcomed and warmly thanked the roomful of attendees from academia and industry.

Prof Flach proceeded with a passionate presentation of the range of speakers while giving the audience a brief taste of what to expect during the 3-day long event: talks, workshops, along with a barbecue! He remarked on the variety of Interactive AI ingredients that would be touched: data-driven AI, knowledge-driven AI, human-AI interaction, and Responsible AI.

Prof Flach’s introduction ended with an acknowledgement of the organisers of the event.

 

Dr James Cussens: ‘Algorithms for learning Bayesian networks’

The first talk of the day was an introduction to Bayesian networks and methods to learn them, given by our very own James Cussens.

Bayesian networks (BN) are directed acyclic graphs, in which each node represents a random variable. The important aspects of these networks, as Dr Cussens highlighted, is that they both define probabilistic distributions and causality relationships: this makes Bayesian networks a popular tool in complex fields such as epidemiology and medical sciences.

Learning BNs is a form of unsupervised learning, based on the assumption that the available data (real or simulated) is generated by an underlying BN. There are multiple reasons for learning a BN from data, such as learning a data-generating probability distribution or learning conditional independence relationships between variables; the talk, however, focused on learning a BN in order to estimate a causal model of the data, which is a task not easy to complete with other machine learning approaches we study and use in the CDT.

A popular algorithm for learning the structure of a BN, the so-called DAG, is constraint-based learning: the basic idea behind this algorithm is to perform statistical tests on data and find a DAG which is consistent with the outcomes of the tests. However, this approach presents some issues: for example, different DAGs could encode the same set of conditional independence relationships.

Dr Cussens then proceeded to introduce DAGgity, a widely used software for creating DAGs and analysing their causal structure. It is important to note that DAGgity does not learn DAGs from data, but allows the researcher to perform interventions and graph surgery. For example, it could allow a clinician to infer a treatment-response causal effects without doing that in practice. The talk also included a small excursus on score-based learning of BNs, which is a Bayesian approach to learning these networks, I.e., it has a prior formulation.

There are many different methods for learning BNs and evaluation is key for choosing the best method. Dr Cussens introduced benchpress, a framework for performing method evaluation and comparison, and showed some results from the benchpress paper, including the evaluation of his own method, GOBNILP (Global Optimum Bayesian Network via Inductive Logic Programming).

We are thankful to James Cussens for opening the BIAS22 with his talk; it was great to get an introduction to these methods that put together many aspects of our CDT, such as causality and graphical models.