Newly appointed Professor wants to explain the complex algorithms to all of us
Explainability and transparency are important values in Professor Thore Husfeldt’s research in algorithms. We must keep education and enlightenment in mind as cornerstones of our society, the Professor argues.
Lucid and beautiful. Those are the ideals guiding Professor Thore Husfeldt’s research in algorithms. The algorithm has to be explainable even though the problem being analyzed is complex.
“It is a value issue. From my position transparency is important, and it defines my entire position as an academic,” Thore Husfeldt says. He was appointed Professor by the IT University in Copenhagen on October 1 2019.
The explicable and transparent
Through decades, Thore Husfeldt has conducted research in efficient algorithms. Even though research in efficient algorithms traditionally focuses on how to make the calculations faster and less energy consuming, the field is evolving and new values emerge in the research area.
“There is a movement within research in algorithms that seeks to make algorithms more lucid. I support this, and it influences my research and my way of teaching. It is urgent for me to explain everything I do,” Thore Husfeldt says.
There is a movement within research in algorithms that seeks to make algorithms more lucid. I support this, and it influences my research and my way of teaching. It is urgent for me to explain everything I do
Thore Husfeldt, Professor ITU. «
Education on formula
For Thore Husfeldt explainability is an ideological mindset he brings into his research. He explains that our fundamental social structure is at play, because all citizens must be able to ask for an explanation for every law affecting their life, and algorithms are a part of policymaking.
“We have agreed on a person being of legal age when the number of days from their birth until today is at least 18 years. It is a simple algorithm. You could argue that it may have been more accurate if the maturity, intelligence and influence of alcohol were taken into consideration but because of democratic reasons we do not want that,” he explains.
Explainability is a value in itself, Thore Husfeldt argues. As more decisions are based on various technologies, the explanations have to be available in the math.
Crucial to explain
Thore Husfeldt is a ‘keen communicator’, as he puts it. Students at ITU and Lund University, where Thore Husfeldt also is a Professor, have acknowledged that and awarded him with prices as best teacher.
To Thore Husfeldt teaching is meaningful. This is why he dedicates his inauguration lecture to an introduction to algorithms and his analysis of how they affect the development of society.
The title of inauguration lecture is in all its simplicity “Algorithms, explained”. That is what the newly appointed professor does. He explains.
“As a professor I do not want to probe very deep into a field, which is often what the professors do. I represent some values. I hope I can use my new position to expatiate on this to wide audience,” he says.
You can watch Thore Husfeldt's inauguration lecture here:
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