Isuri Perera

Isuri Perera

Isuri Perera

  • Student type: International
  • Degree type: Graduate Research
  • Year commenced: 2020
  • Degree(s): Doctor of Philosophy
  • Department: Data Science and Artificial Intelligence, Computational and Collective Intelligence

Home base

Monash is a reputed university in Australia with a lot of support and scholarships for international students. I was working at Monash when I decided to pursue postgraduate studies. The positive culture and the expertise in my area of interest made me choose this university.

Making AI work together

I'm currently working on cooperative artificial intelligence (AI) – how to achieve cooperation in populations of AI agents.

From simple daily routines like driving in traffic to addressing major global challenges like climate change, human cooperation plays a crucial role in the wellbeing of a society. With humans delegating more of their tasks to AI, it’s crucial that AI agents learn to cooperate with humans and other machines.

My research also aims to create AI agents that guide its populations to cooperative equilibria through a better understanding of how their own actions affect a system in the long run. We are inspired by Evolutionary Game Theory where a number of mechanisms have been proven to stabilise cooperation in population games.

The critical challenge with cooperation

Achieving cooperation is not always easy even when it is the only sensible option. Some societal problems we face today, such as environmental pollution and the pandemic, demand cooperation to be solved. However, human self-interest often makes achieving greater success through collaboration more difficult. Rational artificial agents face the same issue.

Me and my team research on how a population of self-interested individuals can learn to cooperate. Although research on cooperative AI has a long way to go, I hope one day it will be able to help solve major global issues by facilitating collaboration between people.

Highs and lows

The highlight of my project was the quality support I received from my supervisors. I started my research at the same time as the initial lockdown in 2020 and it could have been more difficult to make progress without the continuous support and guidance of my supervisors. I was given access to necessary resources and communication channels right away, and there was always help when needed.

The most challenging part for me is the repetitive shift between working from home and coming back to the office due to COVID-19 lockdowns. I’m not a fan of working from home and having to shift every couple of months affects my productivity.

A wearer of many hats

Alongside my project, I work as a tutor for undergraduate subjects, a mentor for new teaching associates and a supervisor for undergraduate research. I value the exposure I received as an academic to both teaching and research.

Further, I want to join academia one day and I hope my experiences at Monash will help me achieve this dream of mine.

Pearls of wisdom for future students

Things are very unlikely to go the way you plan in research but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have one.