Teaching at University of Ljubljana

I got the opportunity to share my knowledge with postgrad students and staff of the Faculty of Computer Science at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. Over two weeks, I taught two two-hour lessons on Probabilistic Belief Change, and one three-hour crash-course on Partially Observable Markov Decision Processes.

The nature in Slovenia is wonderful. I walked a lot in the forests. The Shangri La Hotel spoiled me with their breakfasts. I can recommend the Shangri La.

I was there for the last two weeks of May 2018.

Visiting Abhaya Nayak

I was invited to Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia to collaborate with Abhaya Nayak on probabilistic belief revision, and trust between agents. The visit was for six weeks, ending early in December 2017.

My wife accompanied me. We stayed at the student hostel across the road. Sydney is nice. One can travel for a flat rate the whole day on Sundays.

A Little More about Myself (Gavin Rens)

I was registered for my Doctorate with the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), South Africa. My main supervisor was Thomas (Tommie) Meyer and joint-supervisor Gerhard Lakemeyer.

I spent a year at the RWTH Aachen University in Germany with Prof. Lakemeyer. The rest of the time, i was living in Pretoria, South Africa, while working on the PhD.

The thesis culminated in the Stochastic Decision Logic (SDL), a formal logic for specifying and reasoning about POMDPs.

After completing my Doctorate, i received a two-year post-doctorate fellowship with UKZN, under the supervision of Dr. Deshendran Moodley. However, i still worked remotely from Pretoria. My two main publications in this time were about probabilistic belief revision (European Conference on Artificial Intelligence, 2016) and proposing an agent architecture which combines the POMDP framework and the belief-desire-intention (BDI) architecture (Journal of Cognitive Systems Research).

Currently i am in the middle of a two-year post-doctorate fellowship, sponsored by the Claude Leon Foundation, and situated at the University of Cape Town. My wife and i moved down to Cape Town for this one — we’re actually just two kilometers from the campus.

I’m working on four papers: (1) an extension to POMDPs involving trust between multiple agents, (2)  general probabilistic belief update, (3) probabilistic belief change based on similarity weighting and (4) combining description logics with probabilistic belief revision. All this is in collaboration with various researchers.

In August 2017, i presented A Stochastic Belief Management Framework for Agent Control at the first workshop on Architectures for Generality and Autonomy.


A Little About Myself (Gavin Rens)

Before the Ph.D.

I’ve been interested in Artificial Intelligence since about 2000, when i started my studies in Computer Science. In fact, i decided to study CS because of my interest in AI.

At first, i wanted to study Natural Language Processing (NLP) or Artificial Neural Networks (ANNs). The university where i was studying (University of South Africa; UNISA) had a strong Formal Logic (FL) track and i found that i enjoyed the subject quite a lot. Nonetheless, i did take an Honous (4th year) course in each of NLP and ANNs. My Honours project was on Constraint Logic Programming.

In my Masters degree i studied the Situation Calculus and the programming language based on it, called Golog. I also learnt DTGolog, an extension of Golog which is based on decision theory. And i got interested in partially observable Markov decision processes (POMDPs). My dissertation was thus to extend DTGolog to deal with partial observablility. (DTGolog can be thought of a programming language for MDPs.) My resulting programming language was called PODTGolog.

In a next post, i’ll talk about my PhD and beyond.