Detecting sarcasm with Machine Learning?

With our first intake coming up to the half way point, we are excited to introduce you to the tutor and what makes him tick. Pradeesh, originally from Malaysia, has always had an interest in computers and working with computers. Completing his PhD with the University of Otago his thesis focused on how we can detect sarcasm in text. Read more to find out about the course, machine learning and Pradeesh’s background.

Tell us about yourself – what do you like doing for fun, how did you get into machine learning, what brought you to Queenstown?

I am originally from Malaysia (yes, Malaysians consider anything below 25 degrees to be freezing).  I am a computer geek (I enjoy  working with computers) and have been working with computers since the age of 5. I am interested to understand how these machines make our lives easier, this is how I got my pasfor into computing. Apart from tinkering with computers, I enjoy hiking and yoga.

You might have guessed why I got into machine learning… well it is not because I love computers, (okay that was a reason) but I want to know can machines ever behave like humans and, if they can, what the limitations are. As I was being curious, I thought it would be best for me to do a PhD at the University of Otago. During my studies, I explored this beautiful country and fell in love with Queenstown – with the number of activities you can do out here. Plus it is a melting pot of people from various different cultural backgrounds and always something exciting in Queenstown!

What will this course teach students, and why should they do it?

Machine Learning Fundamentals provides the basics of machine learning in 16-weeks. We cover various aspects of machine learning, from how to build machine learning to the ethical considerations when building machine learning. You don’t have to have any prior programming background at all.  Although there are various options for students today (such as online classes), at QRC – the classroom environment and with the fantastic teachers at QRC, the students can interact with one another and get the classroom experience that makes learning a breeze!

Run us through what your PhD is all about.

My PhD work is all about how we detect sarcasm in text, more specifically, the target of sarcasm. I will not bore you to death with my lengthy explanation – instead, I have summarised my thesis in 3 minutes.  Here’s the YouTube link -> Pradeesh: “Detecting the target of sarcasm is hard: Really?” – YouTube

What do you think is the future of Machine Learning?

It’s difficult to predict the exact future of any field, but with my magic 8-ball, I can say that it is likely that machine learning will continue to be an essential and widely used technology in the coming years. There is a lot of active and ongoing research in this area, particularly in explainable Artificial intelligence (AI); it is a branch of machine learning that is focused on how we can get AI systems to provide explanations for their predictions and situations – this can be useful in high-stakes situations such as healthcare.


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