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Happy Birthday to our Head


It was Monday, September 5th - the end of the holiday season, and Head of Department Michael Wooldridge was all set for what promised to be a fruitful and productive day. On top of his to do list, however, there was an ominous meeting with his predecessor Bill Roscoe in the Robert Hooke Building. If someone wants to see the Head of Department, it does not usually mean anything good…

Mike sallied forth and, contrary to expectation, encountered a rather cheerful Bill almost immediately - and his attention was drawn to a sign saying ‘Workshop in Honour of Michael Wooldridge: 50 Years of Human and Artificial Intelligence.’  Seeing Mike dumbfounded for once gave occasion for some mirth among his colleagues and friends, who had gathered from all over Europe and the UK for a surprise event to celebrate his 50th birthday. Whether it is due to the Department's ability to keep a secret (a great thank you to everyone!) or to Mike's having being utterly oblivious to all the obvious signals, we will probably never know.

After Mike's bafflement had settled down a little, the remainder of the day was devoted to talks highlighting his extensive contributions in the past decades to artificial intelligence and computer science in the UK. The workshop was started off with a visual biography of Mike, and his upcoming Wikipedia page. Wiebe van der Hoek (University of Liverpool) pointed out Mike's importance in developing the Liverpudlian Department of Computer Science. Julian Gutierrez (University of Oxford) gave an overview of the current RACE project Mike is PI of. Carles Sierra (IIIA-CSIC, Spain) presented future research on normative systems. The wide range of Mike's research interests became clear when Edith Elkind (University of Oxford) and Thomas Ågotnes (University of Bergen, Norway) presented their work with Mike on computational aspects of cooperative game theory and dynamic epistemic logic, respectively. Jérôme Lang (LAMSADE, Université Paris Dauphine, France) introduced Brexit games and, presumably for the first time in history, had Boolean games being played in real. Furthermore, Peter Millican (University of Oxford) spoke about Mike's role in the coming to be of the undergraduate degree in Computer Science and Philosophy. Other highlights were the brief but very witty Skype conference with Sarit Kraus (Bar-Ilan University, Israel) and the recorded wise words of Johan van Benthem (University of Amsterdam, Netherlands).

After Juan Rodriguez had provided some comic relief, the participants of the workshop joined the other members of the department to restore themselves at a reception. The day was concluded with a dinner in Hertford College. Many happy returns of the day, Mike!

By Paul Harrenstein