I am a Postdoc working with Cynthia Dwork at Hire Aspirations on solving fairness problems using machine learning. I recently received my PhD from the University of Toronto working at the Computational Social Science Lab with Ashton Anderson. My research is in understanding how we can bridge the gap between artificial intelligence and human intelligence, with an emphasis on building mutual understanding between the two worlds.

My current research is on creating machine learning systems that can increase fairness. My PhD was focused on building chess AI that can play like a human, which is a multifaceted problem leading to work on the ethics of modelling people using AI, understanding what it means to play like a human, and attempts at quantifying what a human’s play signature is.

I will be on the job market this coming fall and am looking for faculty positions or industry research positions.

Notable Papers:

Figure from the paper

Set-Based Prompting: Provably Solving the Language Model Order Dependency Problem

Reid McIlroy-Young, Katrina Brown, Conlan Olson, Linjun Zhang, & Cynthia Dwork

Under Review 2024

Abstract pdf arΧiv

The development of generative language models that can create long and coherent textual outputs via autoregression has lead to a proliferation of uses and a corresponding sweep of analyses as researches work to determine the limitations of this new paradigm. Unlike humans, these 'Large Language Models' (LLMs) are highly sensitive to small changes in their inputs, leading to unwanted inconsistency in their behavior. One problematic inconsistency when LLMs are used to answer multiple-choice questions or analyze multiple inputs is order dependency: the output of an LLM can (and often does) change significantly when sub-sequences are swapped, despite both orderings being semantically identical. In this paper we present Set-Based Prompting, a technique that guarantees the output of an LLM will not have order dependence on a specified set of sub-sequences. We show that this method provably eliminates order dependency, and that it can be applied to any transformer-based LLM to enable text generation that is unaffected by re-orderings. Delving into the implications of our method, we show that, despite our inputs being out of distribution, the impact on expected accuracy is small, where the expectation is over the order of uniformly chosen shuffling of the candidate responses, and usually significantly less in practice. Thus, Set-Based Prompting can be used as a 'dropped-in' method on fully trained models. Finally, we discuss how our method's success suggests that other strong guarantees can be obtained on LLM performance via modifying the input representations.

Figure from the paper

Designing Skill-Compatible AI: Methodologies and Frameworks in Chess

Karim Hamade, Reid McIlroy-Young, Siddhartha Sen, Jon Kleinberg & Ashton Anderson

ICLR 2024

Abstract pdf

Powerful artificial intelligence systems are often used in settings where they must interact with agents that are computationally much weaker, for example when they work alongside humans or operate in complex environments where some tasks are handled by algorithms, heuristics, or other entities of varying computational power. For AI agents to successfully interact in these settings, however, achieving superhuman performance alone is not sufficient; they also need to account for suboptimal actions or idiosyncratic style from their less-skilled counterparts. We propose a formal evaluation framework for assessing the compatibility of near-optimal AI with interaction partners who may have much lower levels of skill; we use popular collaborative chess variants as model systems to study and develop AI agents that can successfully interact with lower-skill entities. Traditional chess engines designed to output near-optimal moves prove to be inadequate partners when paired with engines of various lower skill levels in this domain, as they are not designed to consider the presence of other agents. We contribute three methodologies to explicitly create skill-compatible AI agents in complex decision-making settings, and two chess game frameworks designed to foster collaboration between powerful AI agents and less-skilled partners. On these frameworks, our agents outperform state-of-the-art chess AI (based on AlphaZero) despite being weaker in conventional chess, demonstrating that skill-compatibility is a tangible trait that is qualitatively and measurably distinct from raw performance. Our evaluations further explore and clarify the mechanisms by which our agents achieve skill-compatibility.

Figure from the paper

Mimetic Models: Ethical Implications of AI that Acts Like You

Reid McIlroy-Young, Siddhartha Sen, Jon Kleinberg, Solon Barocas & Ashton Anderson

AIES 2022

Abstract pdf arΧiv

Press: Import AI

An emerging theme in artificial intelligence research is the creation of models to simulate the decisions and behavior of specific people, in domains including game-playing, text generation, and artistic expression. These models go beyond earlier approaches in the way they are tailored to individuals, and the way they are designed for interaction rather than simply the reproduction of fixed, pre-computed behaviors. We refer to these as mimetic models, and in this paper we develop a framework for characterizing the ethical and social issues raised by their growing availability. Our framework includes a number of distinct scenarios for the use of such models, and considers the impacts on a range of different participants, including the target being modeled, the operator who deploys the model, and the entities that interact with it.

Figure from the paper

Detecting Individual Decision-Making Style: Exploring Behavioral Stylometry in Chess

Reid McIlroy-Young, Russell Wang, Siddhartha Sen, Jon Kleinberg & Ashton Anderson

NeurIPS 2021

Abstract pdf code

Press: Science

The advent of machine learning models that surpass human decision-making ability in complex domains has initiated a movement towards building AI systems that interact with humans. Many building blocks are essential for this activity, with a central one being the algorithmic characterization of human behavior. While much of the existing work focuses on aggregate human behavior, an important long-range goal is to develop behavioral models that specialize to individual people and can differentiate among them. To formalize this process, we study the problem of behavioral stylometry, in which the task is to identify a decision-maker from their decisions alone. We present a transformer-based approach to behavioral stylometry in the context of chess, where one attempts to identify the player who played a set of games. Our method operates in a few-shot classification framework, and can correctly identify a player from among thousands of candidate players with 98% accuracy given only 100 labeled games. Even when trained on amateur play, our method generalises to out-of-distribution samples of Grandmaster players, despite the dramatic differences between amateur and world-class players. Finally, we consider more broadly what our resulting embeddings reveal about human style in chess, as well as the potential ethical implications of powerful methods for identifying individuals from behavioral data.

Figure from the paper

Aligning Superhuman AI with Human Behavior: Chess as a Model System

Reid McIlroy-Young, Siddhartha Sen, Jon Kleinberg & Ashton Anderson

KDD 2020

Abstract pdf arΧiv code Lichess

Press: WIRED Engadget TNW the morning paper agadmator U of T News Neural Networks For Chess BBC Science Focus WIRED Youtube

As artificial intelligence becomes increasingly intelligent---in some cases, achieving superhuman performance---there is growing potential for humans to learn from and collaborate with algorithms. However, the ways in which AI systems approach problems are often different from the ways people do, and thus may be uninterpretable and hard to learn from. A crucial step in bridging this gap between human and artificial intelligence is modeling the granular actions that constitute human behavior, rather than simply matching aggregate human performance. We pursue this goal in a model system with a long history in artificial intelligence: chess. The aggregate performance of a chess player unfolds as they make decisions over the course of a game. The hundreds of millions of games played online by players at every skill level form a rich source of data in which these decisions, and their exact context, are recorded in minute detail. Applying existing chess engines to this data, including an open-source implementation of AlphaZero, we find that they do not predict human moves well. We develop and introduce Maia, a customized version of Alpha-Zero trained on human chess games, that predicts human moves at a much higher accuracy than existing engines, and can achieve maximum accuracy when predicting decisions made by players at a specific skill level in a tuneable way. For a dual task of predicting whether a human will make a large mistake on the next move, we develop a deep neural network that significantly outperforms competitive baselines. Taken together, our results suggest that there is substantial promise in designing artificial intelligence systems with human collaboration in mind by first accurately modeling granular human decision-making.

The full list is in Publications and my CV.