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Woods Lectures

J. James Woods Lecture Series

The "Woods" Series was established by a generous gift from the estate of J. James Woods. The goal of the Woods bequest is to bring prominent mathematicians and scientists to Butler University in order to speak on theories at the frontier of their disciplines, as well as on related technologies and other issues of public concern.

The 2018-2019 Season is announced! See our entire 2018-2019 Woods Series Schedule.

Tom Griffiths

Tom GriffithsAlgorithms to Live By

Tuesday, March 5, 7:30 PM, Atherton Union, Reilly Room

All our lives are constrained by limited space and time, limits that give rise to a particular set of problems. What should we do, or leave undone, in a day or a lifetime? How much messiness should we accept? What balance of new activities and familiar favorites is the most fulfilling? These may seem like uniquely human quandaries, but they are not: computers, too, face the same constraints, so computer scientists have been grappling with their versions of such problems for decades. And the solutions they've found have much to teach us. In this talk, I will discuss three problems that arise in the lives of both humans and computers — the explore/exploit tradeoff, caching, and predicting the future. Looking at the ways that computers solve these problems offers insights relevant to our day-to-day lives, and a different way of thinking about how we should make decisions, use our memories, and structure our environments.

Tom Griffiths is the Henry R. Luce Professor of Information Technology, Consciousness, and Culture at Princeton University. His research explores connections between human and machine learning, using ideas from statistics and artificial intelligence to understand how people solve the challenging computational problems they encounter in everyday life. In 2016, Tom and his friend and collaborator Brian Christian published "Algorithms to live by", introducing ideas from computer science and cognitive science to a general audience and illustrating how they can be applied to human decision-making. The book was named as one of the“Best Science Books of 2016,” the Forbes “Must-read brain books of 2016,” and the MIT Technology Review “Best books of 2016.”


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All Woods Lectures are free & open to the public—no tickets required.