Q & A with Anthony Constantinou

When it comes to impressive accolades, litanies of accomplishments, and well deserved credence, Dr. Anthony Constantinou surpasses most scholars, businessmen, and entrepreneurs. As the head of the Bayesian Artificial Intelligence Research Lab, the always curious Dr. Constantinou lends his professional insights within the field of artificial intelligence to top academics, industry leaders, and tech-driven companies. Anthony Constantinou spreads his breadth of knowledge as a Professor in Machine Learning and Data Mining at Queen Mary University of London, where he inspires future leaders in the ever-evolving realm of artificial intelligence.

Constantinou’s research credentials are listed on dozens of research journals, collaborative works, and experimental papers, furthering the notion that his work is truly his passion, and vice versa. His contribution to the field of data mining, informational technology, and causal relationships creates the modern foundation that is utilized by leaders in various respective fields on a worldwide scale.

How does your own learning foundation prepare you for your profession as a scholar?

As a dual citizen of Cyprus and the United Kingdom, I have the freedom and unique ability to travel wherever my work takes me without limitations. Though it is somewhat of an intrinsic attribute, my first language is Greek, which lends a helping hand in the realm of intelligence gathering, where many Latin and Greek symbols are utilized. Of course, being fluent in English is also largely helpful in conducting research, developing theories, and sharing my findings in a meaningful manner that can be understood by the largest group of individuals.

Throughout my childhood, and adult life, I have always enjoyed the process of applying reason, logistics, and statistics to resolve everyday conundrums. Thus, I was always self-motivated to gain knowledge within my fields of interest, and maintained the drive needed to succeed academically, and professionally. Without real interest and passion for the content of my scholarly endeavors, I don’t think I could have enjoyed so much success.

In addition to lending your talents in a research capacity, you also teach a course on Bayesian Networks, and provide counsel to undergraduate and graduate students. Why extend yourself so much in academia?

From a professional standpoint, my scholarly research allows me to continue to actively participate in a field that absolutely drives me. Not only does my job fulfill me on an intrinsic level, but also allows me to have an absolutely impactful role within the field. On a long-term basis, teaching allows me to feel as though I am making an impact on the future of the field. By sharing my excitement about the limitless nature of the field, I am hopeful to inspire future generations of scholars, and to break ground within the world of artificial intelligence. Mentoring students at every level within their education allows me to actively help others reach their goals, and to support the future of the community that has welcomed me, and my thoughts, with open arms.

Tell us a little bit about your role as a Consultant in Ratings Systems. 

            Outside of my scholarly endeavors, I also serve as a Consultant in Ratings Systems, and Bayesian networks. On a freelance level, I collaborate with various agencies, businesses, and individuals to provide risk assessment, assistance with decision making, and even project management. I have garnered extensive experience within the realm of sports betting, in football, darts, and tennis tournaments, championships, and matches. The experience of consulting within the sports realm allows me to combine my love of sports, with my love of artificial intelligence, and utilize both in a fun exercise that ultimately assists people.

I have also provided consulting services to large companies in need of decision making assistance, and have led them to a path of continued success after a time of uncertainty, all by utilized proven methods of science. While business isn’t exactly seen as intuitive, I strongly believe that many businesses do not fully utilize available scientific and mathematical solutions at their fingertips in order to determine courses for action within their business. In the past, I have provided consulting services for JFE Steel Corporation (Japan’s second largest steel manufacturer), where I provided risk management services for steel production processes, creating decisions that would impact an excess of 60,000 laborers directly. Knowing that my research impacted so many people directly, on an everyday basis, further motivated my continued involvement in the field, and propelled its’ useful nature in every avenue.

You also provide scholarly review for several research journals, and peer reviews for other academics. What impact do you believe this process has on the academic world as a whole?

There is nothing more conducive to success than a fresh set of eyes, and nothing more bonding within the academic community than a spirit of camaraderie, and the sharing of information. Though I am still quite young (at least for the purpose of scholarly review), my comprehensive array of published scholarly credits lend me credence, and allow me to participate as a peer reviewer of collateral prior to publishing. To date, I have provided input to internationally recognized journals, such as Knowledge-Based Systems, International Journal of Sport Finance, Artificial Intelligence in Medicine, and about twenty other research publications. I thoroughly enjoy the process, and hope to continue to lend my insights for my community of peers for many years to come.

As with most industries, retaining a system of checks and balances, and self-management, allows the aforementioned industry to remain in-check, and prohibits research being published that may be incorrect, compromised, or otherwise derogatory to the overall message of the field. By providing a peer review system, the members of this small niche community are essentially “double checking” each others work, akin to the practices performed in grade school. Throughout this practice, small errors are often resolved, and a piece can be truly ready to be shared with the general masses. I have found that most scholars appreciate such great care, attention, and communal effort in putting forth the best results.

You have received many accolades, and awards. Which award would you highlight in your career?

In August of 2018, I was appointed as a Turing Fellow, an honor bestowed upon by The Alan Turing Foundation. Being that the Foundation is the national center for data science, and artificial intelligence, it felt like garnering the highest honor from the most noble of offices, directly within my scope of work!

The Turing Institute is so remarkable when it comes to pushing the envelope of knowledge, forward thinking, and AI, and to be remarked as being worthy of being in the same sphere as the world’s top thinkers is an honor beyond my wildest expectations.

What research topics really pique your interest, and why?

Though I find the vast majority of my work to be meaningful and exciting, I am partial to research that delves into the notion of intelligent decision making throughout uncertain situations. Essentially, the aim of this research is to determine what resources are utilized when making decisions in unfamiliar territory, and what type of outside influences are utilized in an attempt to rationalize a particular decision. Within the world of causal discovery, algorithms are utilized to attempt to locate causal relationships within observed data, and the results are then read in a way that is meaningful to a resolution of a particular problem, decision, or move.

The reason why this particular niche is so fascinating, in my opinion, is that the process can be applied universally, throughout almost any situation, and spans various fields. Within the arenas of sport, finance and investment, gaming and interactive play, and even medicine, the recognition of causal relationships may provide an edge, or a more concise result. For example, who wouldn’t want to utilize the Bayesian network models to graph, predict, and hypothesize the winnings of a football match? While that particular example is helpful in a playful sense, the process is also often utilized as a support method for medical decision making, allowing life-and-death decisions to be made in an intelligent manner, and essentially changing the course of a patient’s future.

How do Bayesian network work? What can they help average people with?

Without delving into too many complexities, the findings of Bayesian networks can be graphed, and utilized as tangible aides for individuals seeking to make well-informed decision in times of uncertainty. The goal in discovering causal relationships lies in making logical sense, and finding patterns of cause and effect in otherwise random aspects of existence, and utilizing these finding to best prepare for the future. By understanding the various variables that go into the decision making process under a specific set of circumstances, one can then utilize these variables to his or her advantage. By understanding the presence of an effect, one can begin to determine the cause, which can open the pathway to knowledge. Thus, the real-world possibilities for utilization is endless!

Though this model is utilized by many leading professional within stressful situations, like garnering insight related to the cause of a disease by reviewing the symptoms of said disease, it can also be implemented by almost everyone, for even simple ideas. For example, one can pose the following query; “What is the probability that it rained, seeing as the ground outside is currently wet?”

What excites you most about the future of your field? 

            Throughout the past few decades, there have been boundless gains of understanding of various information systems, and vast advancements within the world of artificial intelligence, robotics, intuitive learning, and causal connections. Simultaneously, the world wide web, the concept of Big Data, and the globalization of the internet have led to somewhat of an interactive Wild West, where the changing landscape of the e-world has not yet been conquered. As soon as one aspect of data mining is resolved, new advancements immediately nullify all findings, rendering the findings immediately outdated. Thus, researchers and scholars are working swiftly to catch up with the changing landscapes. One can view this as a terrifying notion, or a thoroughly invigorating challenge! Most researchers will agree that this uncertainty is thrilling, and fuels our need to resolve the world’s questioning.

Thus, what excites me most is yet to be seen! I’m mostly thrilled by the open ended nature of the ways in which my research, models, and tactics can be utilized in a swiftly changing environment, where the scientific approach can be applied to just about any new technology, situation, and worldly event, and utilized to create logically sound conclusions. The future of this field is completely unwritten at this point, which means that the general masses also convey the power to write the story as they see fit. There is so much power to be had by the masses when it comes to the future of our online environments, and I’m extremely curious as to how much interest people will have in delving into the back-end of their virtual worlds. I’m also excited to see how, and if, these advancements will change the decision making process within online processes for the average person. As data mining, and data collection at the hands of large corporations continues to evolve, I’m curious about the manner in which the general public will respond, and how this may change the concept of data collection, transparency, and laws in the future.

As an individual who has a lot going on professionally, how do you ensure that you are productive throughout a work day?

I do work on multiple projects on a daily basis, but I find it absolutely crucial to focus solely on whatever is directly in front of me, and to give my undivided attention to the project at hand. This enables me to do my best work, without being distracted by external stimuli, and in turn, allows me to complete projects at a more rapid pace, though that isn’t my main intention for my laser-like focus. By giving credence and weight to each action, each project, and each interaction, I am able to dedicate energy to what I am doing, and alleviate the need to fix inevitable mistakes that occur when one is distracted, or attempting to multitask beyond the abilities of the moment.

As I love the very nature of my work, I often find that I can remain proactive, streamlined, and focused throughout most days without much concerted effort. Additionally, upon completing a task, I do take a moment to give the finished product a once-over, once again saving myself the grief of having to correct multiple mistakes. In my professional work, mistakes are often met with large scale consequences, and thus, are important to avoid at all costs. Being initially careful, especially in the beginning stages of a product, allows me to avoid these costly mistakes.

Finally, I also take great measures to be fully present, and engaged within each moment. Days tend to be but fleeting memories at times, especially when surrounded by constant research, methodology, and enthralling content. Thus, I make efforts to appreciate small moments of victory, often light years away from the eventual “big picture” goal or victory, as a means of emotionally rewarding myself for a job well done. It takes many small steps in order to accomplish a long-term goal, all of which are crucial to the overall success of the large scale end result.

What advice would you have to younger people looking to get into the world of consulting, artificial intelligence, and scholarly research?

First and foremost, I would bestow the importance of loving your chosen field, being somewhat intimidated by the profession, and being in awe of the leaders within the chosen profession. By having people to look up to, one can aim to model their career after their professional heroes, and hopefully, develop meaningful mentorships with the people who essentially embody the future versions of the younger folks. In many traditionally handed down occupations, apprentices learned from great masters, who provided them with bespoke traditions, secrets, and trade works. There is something to be said for learning from others, and developing a professional community spirit of learning. Generally, with the right personal ambition, and nurturing professional community, one can achieve their professional goals.

What does the future hold for you professionally?

In the future, I hope to continue to work on research based projects throughout my Fellowships at Turing, and EPSRC, where I’ll continue to be engaged in furthering the scope of artificial intelligence. Additionally, I would like to develop more models to be entered in competitions. In May of this year, I entered a model, named “Dolores”, in the international Machine Learning for Soccer competition. The model ranked second worldwide, behind the winning model, which was based on our own pi-level system. I found the competition to be exhilarating, and indicative of the spirit of camaraderie. Thus, I would love to participate in more community building events centered around artificial intelligence. As I continue lecturing courses, and providing mentorship to undergraduate, and graduate students, I would love to continue to be involved actively with the next generation of scholars.

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