The Four Ways We Tell Machines What We Want, and How We Can Do Better


Michael L. Littman

Tuesdays, September 8th and 15th, 12-1:30pm PT / 3-4:30pm ET
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The Four Ways We Tell Machines What We Want, and How We Can Do Better


This is a two-part talk, but we get it: that's a big commitment. Want to sign up for week one first? You can do so at Then, if you love the first session (and we're pretty sure you will!), you can sign up for week two afterward. Ready to commit to both sessions? Get your ticket here.



In our modern world, computers recommend movies they think we’ll like, remind us to order more laundry detergent, and answer our burning questions without breaking a sweat. But how do computer systems know how to do these things for us? It depends on how they were designed.

Over two lectures, renowned computer science professor Michael Littman will share the major ways in which humans endow computers with their intended autonomous behaviors. The approaches differ based on whether we are telling computers what to do or we are teaching them by example. They differ as to whether we are expressing concrete strategies to follow or presenting challenges for them to meet.

If you understand how computers are told, trained, and taught what to do, you will be a savvier consumer and more adept at convincing the machines to do what you want them to do. Professor Littman’s talks will leave you with a richer understanding of:

  • Programming languages
  • Machine learning 
  • Artificial intelligence 
  • More effective communication, even with each other


What to expect at this event