A World Full of Surprises: Bayesian Theory of Surprise to Quantify Degrees of Uncertainty

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A World Full of Surprises: Bayesian Theory of Surprise to Quantify Degrees of Uncertainty

Nelly Bencomo
Durham University (UK)


In the specific area of software engineering (SE) for self-adaptive systems (SASs) there is a growing research awareness about the synergy between SE and artificial intelligence (AI). We are just starting . In this talk, we will talk about a novel and formal Bayesian definition of surprise as the basis for quantitative analysis to measure degrees of uncertainty and deviations of self-adaptive systems from normal behaviour. A surprise measures how observed data affects the models or assumptions of the world during runtime. The key idea is that a “surprising” event can be defined as one that causes a large divergence between the belief distributions prior to and posterior to the event occurring. In such a case the system may decide either to adapt accordingly or to flag that an abnormal situation is happening.  We will discuss possible applications of Bayesian theory of surprise for the case of self-adaptive systems using Bayesian Inference and Partially Observable Markov Decision Processes (POMDPs). We will also discuss work related to Digital Twins.

Speaker bio: Nelly Bencomo is an Associate Professor in Computer Science at Durham University in the UK (since September 2021). In 2019, she was granted the Leverhulme Fellowship “QuantUn: quantification of uncertainty using Bayesian surprises.” Nelly is the principal investigator of the research project Twenty20Insight funded under the EPSRCs to work on Software Engineering, RE, and AI (2020-2023). Before, she was an EU Marie Curie Fellow, from May 2011-May 2013 under a Marie-Curie Fellowship (Grant) Requirements@run.time: Requirements-aware Systems. She was a Senior Researcher at Lancaster University until May 2011 after being was awarded her Ph.D. in Computer Science by Lancaster University in 2008. Nelly exploits the interdisciplinary aspects of software engineering, comprising both technical and human concerns while developing techniques for intelligent, autonomous and highly-distributed systems. With other colleagues, she coined the research topics models@run.time and requirements@run.time. Nelly has actively participated in different European Projects and the EPSRC in the UK in the area of self-adaptive and autonomous systems. She was the program chair of the 9th International Symposium on Software Engineering for Adaptive and Self-Managing Systems (SEAMS) in 2014, and co-program chair of the 12th IEEE International Conference on Self-Adaptive and Self-Organizing Systems (SASO) in 2018. Nelly is an Associate Editor of IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering (TSE) and a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Software and Systems Modeling.