Alan Chan

Alan Chan

PhD Student




I am a PhD student at Mila, advised by Nicolas Le Roux. Previously at Amii + UAlberta, I was an MSc student with Martha White. My research priorities include reinforcement learning, governance of AI, FATE (Fairness, Accountability, Transparency, Ethics), and value alignment. In addition to my research interests, I love to travel, read, and talk to new people every day! Please feel free to reach out to chat about anything!


  • Reinforcement learning
  • AI Governance
  • FATE
  • Alignment


  • PhD in Computer Science, 2025

    Université de Montréal

  • MSc in Computing Science, 2020

    University of Alberta

  • BSc in Mathematics, 2018

    University of Alberta

Recent Papers

Loss of Control: "Normal Accidents" and AI Systems

A thread in recent work on the social impacts of AI systems is whether certain properties of a domain should preclude the application …

The Limits of Global Inclusion in AI Development

Those best-positioned to profit from the proliferation of artificial intelligence (AI) systems are those with the most economic power. …

Approaching Ethical Impacts in AI Research: The Role of a Graduate Student

Extant societal challenges and the problematic applications of algorithmic systems so far have motivated broader consideration of the …

Inverse Policy Evaluation for Value-based Sequential Decision-making

Value-based methods for reinforcement learning lack generally applicable ways to derive behavior from a value function. Many approaches …

Training Recurrent Neural Networks Online by Learning Explicit State Variables

Recurrent neural networks (RNNs) allow an agent to construct a state-representation from a stream of experience, which is essential in …


I’m interested in (1) building a society more in accord with the demands of justice, (2) the development of AI to help to achieve these ends, and (3) the mitigation of the harms AI poses. I currently think a lot about:

  • Reinforcement learning, especially policy optimization
  • Governance of AI
  • FATE (Fairness, Accountability, Transparency, Ethics)
  • Value alignment

Recent & Upcoming Talks

MSc Seminar

My seminar for my MSc thesis.

Problems with Fair ML

This talk will be a mostly non-technical dive into problems that I find with a lot of fair ML research today. I will begin with some …

Recent Posts


I always struggle with the languages box on applications: what do I put for Cantonese and Mandarin? I’m sure that I don’t speak them fluently or even moderately well, but I’m not a beginner either.

Talking to Strangers

My last daily chat with a stranger was several months ago. Last year, motivated mostly by the positive experiences of a friend who had done a similar challenge, I decided to find somebody new—usually a student on campus—to talk to every day.

Coping and Learning

When I was in junior high school, I had already grown a shell of isolation. When we feel lonely, especially after a prolonged period of time, it is more difficult to reach out, even accept, the social interaction we need to warm the frigidity in our hearts.

Conflicts in Categorizing

Disclaimers I use the word category quite loosely in this piece. I do not refer to the mathematical field of Category Theory, although there may be some interesting, unexplored connections there.

Reviewing and Conferences

This piece is an imaginary dialogue between me and a friend about the process of reviewing for conferences. I’m currently working through my 6 NeurIPS reviews, and in the process have generated a lot of thoughts about my experiences.