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AISB opportunities Bulletin Item

10 jobs at the Swiss AI Lab IDSIA


The Robot Learning Group at the Swiss AI Lab IDSIA is expanding. We are seeking 5 outstanding postdocs and 5 excellent PhD students with experience / interest in topics such as (vision-based) adaptive robotics http://www.idsia.ch/~juergen/learningrobots.html , curiosity-driven learning & intrinsic motivations based on the theory of surprise and interestingness http://www.idsia.ch/~juergen/interest.html , reinforcement learning & policy gradients for partially observable environments http://www.idsia.ch/~juergen/rl.html , artificial evolution http://www.idsia.ch/~juergen/evolution.html , recurrent neural networks (RNN) http://www.idsia.ch/~juergen/rnn.html , RNN evolution http://www.idsia.ch/~juergen/rnnevolution.html , hierarchical reinforcement learning http://www.idsia.ch/~juergen/subgoals.html , statistical / Bayesian approaches to machine learning, statistical robotics http://www.idsia.ch/~juergen/statisticalrobotics.html , unsupervised learning http://www.idsia.ch/~juergen/ica.html , general artificial intelligence http://www.idsia.ch/~juergen/ai.html , universal learning machines http://www.idsia.ch/~juergen/unilearn.html & http://www.idsia.ch/~juergen/goedelmachine.html . Goal: to improve the state of the art in adaptive robotics and machine learning in general, in both theory and practice.

Funding is provided by several new EU projects, one on developmental robotics with adaptive iCub humanoids exploring the world like little infants, one on learning to control artificial hands with antagonistic & stiff muscles, and one on self-reference and "humanobs." But all postdocs and students will interact with each other and resident IDSIAni - we are one big family! Our international project partners include leading neuroscientists, machine learners, psychologists, roboticists, and other experts from Germany, the UK, Italy, Scandinavia, the US, and other countries.

Salary: commensurate with experience. Postdocs ~ SFR 72,000 / year (~ US$ 67,000 /  48,000 /  46,000 as of 1/1/09). PhD fellowships: ~ SFR 38,000 / year (~ $ 35,000 as of 1/1/09). Low taxes! There is travel funding in case of papers accepted at important conferences.

Interviews: most will take place at IDSIA in Switzerland, but we will also arrange meetings in the period 5-17 March 2009 in the area Washington / New York / Boston, where JS will give the AGI-09 keynote and talks at various US East Coast labs.

Instructions and background: http://www.idsia.ch/~juergen/eu2009.html

Some of the jobs will be related to the theory of surprise & attention & exploration & curiosity (1990-2008): http://www.idsia.ch/~juergen/interest.html . Recent overview:

Driven by Compression Progress: A Simple Principle Explains Essential Aspects of Subjective Beauty, Novelty, Surprise, Interestingness, Attention, Curiosity, Creativity, Art, Science, Music, Jokes (2008, based on keynote talk for KES 2008 and joint invited lecture for ALT 2007 / DS 2007; variants to appear in SICE Journal & Proc. ABIALS). arXiv preprint: http://arXiv.org/abs/0812.4360 
Abstract. I argue that data becomes temporarily interesting by itself to some self-improving, but computationally limited, subjective observer once he learns to predict or compress the data in a better way, thus making it subjectively simpler and more `beautiful.' Curiosity is the desire to create or discover more non-random, non-arbitrary, regular data that is novel and surprising not in the traditional sense of Boltzmann and Shannon but in the sense that it allows for compression progress because its regularity was not yet known. This drive maximizes interestingness, the first derivative of subjective beauty or compressibility, that is, the steepness of the learning curve. It motivates exploring infants, pure mathematicians, composers, artists, dancers, comedians, yourself, and recent artificial systems.

Juergen Schmidhuber


IDSIA was the smallest of the world's top ten AI labs listed in the 1997 "X-Lab Survey" by Business Week magazine, and ranked in fourth place in the category "Computer Science - Biologically Inspired". IDSIA's most important work was done after 1997 though. It is small but visible, competitive, and influential. Its highly cited Ant Colony Optimization Algorithms broke numerous benchmark records and are now widely used in industry for routing, logistics etc (today entire conferences specialize on Artificial Ants). IDSIA is also the origin of the first mathematical theory of optimal Universal Artificial Intelligence and self-referential Universal Problem Solvers (previous work on general AI was dominated by heuristics). IDSIA's artificial Recurrent Neural Networks learn to solve numerous previous unlearnable sequence processing tasks through gradient descent, artificial evolution and other methods. Research topics also include complexity and generalization issues, unsupervised learning and information theory, forecasting, learning robots. IDSIA's results were reviewed not only in science journals such as Nature, Science, Scientific American, but also in numerous popular press articles in TIME, the NY Times, der SPIEGEL, etc. Many TV shows on Tech & Science helped to popularize IDSIA's achievements. 

Switzerland is a good place for scientists. It is the origin of special relativity (1905) and the World Wide Web (1990), is associated with 105 Nobel laureates, and boasts far more Nobel prizes per capita than any other nation. It also has the world's highest number of publications per capita, the highest number of patents per capita, the highest citation impact factor, the most cited single-author paper, etc, etc. Switzerland also got the highest ranking in the list of happiest countries.