Artificial Intelligence: Duke Scientist Cynthia Rudin Wins $1M Prize For Socially Responsible AI

October 18, 2021 | Artificial Intelligence, News
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Rudin’s mission is to use AI’s power to help society.

Duke University computer scientist Cynthia Rudin has been awarded the AAAI Squirrel AI Award for Artificial Intelligence for the Benefit of Humanity. She becomes the second recipient of the $1 million award. It recognizes her for “pioneering scientific work in the area of interpretable and transparent AI systems in real-world deployments, the advocacy for these features in highly sensitive areas such as social justice and medical diagnosis, and serving as a role model for researchers and practitioners.”

Interpretable machine learning algorithms

Rudin has spent 15 years developing “interpretable” machine learning algorithms that are not black boxes, but instead allow human beings to see inside them and understand what it is they actually do.

She uses these insights to develop socially significant AI that can deeply affect people’s lives. Examples of her work in AI include:

· Seizure prediction in ICU patients. It allowed doctors to monitor 2.8X more patients and saved over $6M at two major hospitals in FY2018. It also helps to prevent severe brain damage in critically ill patients. This work won the 2019 INFORMS Innovative Applications in Analytics Award.

· She led the first major effort to maintain an underground electrical distribution network using machine learning, in joint work with Consolidated Edison (NYSE: ED) in NYC. This project won the 2013 INFORMS Innovative Applications in Analytics Award.

· Along with collaborators, she developed code for detecting crime series in cities. Developed in Cambridge MA and adapted by the NYPD and their application (Patternizr), it has been running live in NYC since 2016 for determining whether each new crime is related to past crimes.

Her award is on par with the Nobel and Turing prizes

“Only world-renowned recognitions, such as the Nobel Prize and the A.M. Turing Award from the Association of Computing Machinery, carry monetary rewards at the million-dollar level,” said AAAI awards committee chair and past president Yolanda Gil. “Professor Rudin’s work highlights the importance of transparency for AI systems in high-risk domains. Her courage in tackling controversial issues calls out the importance of research to address critical challenges in responsible and ethical use of AI.”

Rudin: No more black-box algorithms

“Cynthia is changing the landscape of how AI is used in societal applications by redirecting efforts away from black-box models and toward interpretable models by showing that the conventional wisdom—that black boxes are typically more accurate—is very often false,” said Jun Yang, chair of the computer science department at Duke. “This makes it harder to justify subjecting individuals (such as defendants) to black-box models in high-stakes situations. The interpretability of Cynthia’s models has been crucial in getting them adopted in practice, since they enable human decision-makers, rather than replace them.”

Rudin’s pioneering work in interpretable AI has led to the creation of entirely new categories in machine learning journals and conferences devoted to interpretable and applied work in AI.

Related Story: Truera Will Tell You What’s Going On Inside The ML Black Box

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