Inaugural Distinguished Lecture by Tuomas Sandholm

Inaugural Distinguished Lecture by Tuomas Sandholm

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Inaugural Distinguished Lecture by Tuomas Sandholm

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What Can and Should Humans Contribute to Superhuman AIs?

Tuomas Sandholm

Angel Jordan University Professor of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University

Co-Director, CMU AI

Founder and Director, Electronic Marketplaces Laboratory

Founder, President, and CEO, Optimized Markets, Inc.

Founder, President, and CEO, Strategy Robot, Inc.

Founder, President, and CEO, Strategic Machine, Inc.


Tuomas Sandholm will discuss what humans can and should contribute to superhuman AIs—not general ones intended to be like humans, but ones for specific applications that make the world a better place. He will discuss how the application should drive research. Tuomas will present extensive experiences from having fielded superhuman AIs for combinatorial markets, organ exchanges, and imperfect-information game settings. He will also discuss:

  • inventing and scoping novel AI applications
  • how humans should supply the value framework while leaving policy optimization and combinatorics to AI
  • a framework that separates those ends and means, and conducts future-aware optimization in very-large-scale dynamic problems in a scalable way.
  • the future of science when theorems (not just proofs) and empirical theories need to be so long that they are beyond human comprehension
  • human overconfidence in humans over AI
  • what explainability could be and why in many AI applications it should not be required.
  • flipping ethics around from an ex post discussion activity to a system-design discipline that he has coined as "pre-design ethics"
  • Biography

Tuomas Sandholm’s research focuses on the convergence of artificial intelligence, economics, and operations research. He has published over 500 peer-reviewed papers and holds 25 patents. In parallel with his academic career, he was Founder, Chairman, first CEO, and CTO/Chief Scientist of CombineNet, Inc. from 1997 until its acquisition in 2010. During this period the company commercialized over 800 of the world's largest-scale generalized combinatorial auctions, with over $60 billion in total spend and over $6 billion in generated savings.

Since 2010, his algorithms have been running the national kidney exchange for the United Network for Organ Sharing, where they autonomously make the kidney exchange transplant plan for 80% of U.S. transplant centers together each week. He also co-invented never-ending altruist-donor-initiated chains and his algorithms created the first such chain. Such chains have become the main modality of kidney exchange worldwide and have led to around 10,000 life-saving transplants. He invented liver lobe and multi-organ exchanges, and the first liver-kidney swap took place in 2019.

He is Founder and CEO of Optimized Markets, Inc., which is bringing a new optimization-powered expressive market paradigm to advertising campaign sales, pricing, allocation, and scheduling across media types. He has developed the leading algorithms for many general classes of game with his students. The team that he leads is the multi-time world champion in computer heads-up no-limit Texas hold’em, which is the main benchmark and decades-open challenge problem for testing application-independent algorithms for solving imperfect-information games. Their AI Libratus became the first and only AI to beat top humans at that game. Then their AI Pluribus became the first and only AI to beat top humans at the multi-player game. That is the first superhuman milestone in any game beyond two-player zero-sum games.

He is Founder and CEO of Strategic Machine, Inc., which provides solutions for strategic reasoning under imperfect information in a broad set of applications ranging from poker to other recreational games to business strategy, negotiation, strategic pricing, finance, cybersecurity, physical security, auctions, political campaigns, and medical treatment planning. He is Founder and CEO of Strategy Robot, Inc., which focuses on defense applications. He served as the redesign consultant of Baidu’s sponsored search auctions and display advertising markets; the monetization per user doubled.

He has served as consultant, advisor, or board member for Yahoo!, Google, Chicago Board Options Exchange,, Granata Decision Systems (now part of Google), Rare Crowds (now part of Media Math), and others. He holds a Ph.D. and M.S. in computer science and a Dipl. Eng. (M.S. with B.S. included) with distinction in Industrial Engineering and Management Science. Among his honors are the Minsky Medal, John McCarthy Award, Engelmore Award, Computers and Thought Award, inaugural ACM Autonomous Agents Research Award, CMU’s Allen Newell Award for Research Excellence, Sloan Fellowship, NSF Career Award, Carnegie Science Center Award for Excellence, Edelman Laureateship, and Goldman Sachs’s 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs. He is Fellow of the ACM, AAAI, INFORMS, and AAAS. He holds an honorary doctorate from the University of Zurich.

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