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In love with the machines

Marija Slavkovik has always been attracted to machines. In fact, she has turned artificial intelligence into the core theme of her research.

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Portrait of Postdoctoral fellow Marija Slavkovik, Department of Information Science and Media Studies, University of Bergen (UiB).
BUILDING BRIDGES: Postdoctoral fellow Marija Slavkovik is hoping to secure funding for an innovative new research project, which brings together her research on artificial intelligence with media theory.
Photo:
University of Bergen

How do machines work? And how can we improve on the machines to make the world a better place?

A free-floating visionary

This may sum up the essence of Marija Slavkovik’s research. However, that would be to strongly limit her approach to artificial intelligence, or AI as it is known. Her scope is more free-floating and visionary than these two questions alone would suggest.

“I would say that my main interest within AI is in how groups reason and how computers contribute to making social choices. But I also want to make use of machines to improve decision-making, which in turn is connected with my interest in machine ethics,” says Marija Slavkovik about how she fell in love with the machines.

The Macedonian-born researcher is a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Information Science and Media Studies at the University of Bergen (UiB).

Creating a better society

“I have worked in seven or eight countries. You could say that I’m a very mobile person,” she says laughing, “I was always interested in technical stuff, but it was AI that really turned my head and I have wanted to work within the field of AI ever since I discovered this discipline in research.”

Over the years, she increasingly has wanted to look at how to use the powers that rest in the machines to create a better society. This led Slavkovik to UiB and Bergen, where she has been a researcher since June 2013.

“What I do is social trace studies,” she says, before asking a couple of questions to underline the deeper societal impact of her work: “How do you make a choice that is representative? How do you decide who leads the country? This is what my research increasingly deals with.”

The whole is more than the pieces

The Bergen-based information scientist has been busy developing a research project she hopes to secure future funding for. One of the things that concern her is the balance between use of machines and social equality.

“Today, labour in Asia is paid a ridiculously low amount of money to perform mundane tasks. But what if we rethink labour and use machines instead,” Slavkovik points out before rhetorically asking: “May we find that we could pay people more, have a happier work force, and also get the work done more efficiently?”

Her aim is to take these ideas of work-life balance and put them into a broader societal context, whilst bringing together information science and media studies in a ground-breaking, interdisciplinary new research project.

“I believe that the more we are able to automate, the higher the standard of living will be. As a researcher, I am interested in how collective reasoning works and where the whole that emerges is more than the pieces,” says Marija Slavkovik optimistically about her ambitious new project.

“We already know how to make better computational choices. But how do we raise awareness? This look at the bigger picture is at the centre of the project. I like to see the bigger picture,” she exclaims before adding a final touch all her own:

“Understanding how to use machines to create social awareness is the greatest puzzle of all. I would love to be the researcher to find the answer that solves this issue. I love solving puzzles!”