New Podcast and Video Series Seeks to Highlight AI Researchers Stories Over Stats

With accolades showered upon them, seemingly perfect educational pedigrees, and conversations focused mostly on their groundbreaking work, it’s hard to remember that artificial intelligence (AI) researchers are real people.

They’re people who take ballet classes as an adult, who suffer from anxiety, and love art. They’re also people who feel giddy over fresh flowers, have a difficult time staying organized, and roll out of bed just in time for their first meeting.

Devi Parikh, an associate professor in the Machine Learning Center at Georgia Tech (ML@GT) and School of Interactive Computing (IC,) is working to change that with her new podcast and video series, Humans of AI: Stories, Not Stats.

The series, which launches on Oct. 20, features 18 conversations with leading AI researchers, including Jeff Dean (head of AI at Google), Animashree Anandkumar (Bren Professor at California Institute of Technology and Director of Machine Learning Research at NVIDIA), Ayanna Howard (School of IC chair and professor at Georgia Tech),and Timnit Gebru (co-lead of ethical AI at Google.)

With 45 questions – none of them about a person’s professional work or educational background – Parikh hopes to reveal more about the people behind the algorithms. Rather than hearing about the technical aspects of their latest project, listeners can expect to hear guests talk about their struggles with time management, imposter syndrome, or what makes them nostalgic.

“There are a lot of venues where we get to hear people talk about their work, like conferences and seminars. But there aren’t a lot of opportunities to have regular conversations and hear about their day-to-day life — what their favorite part of their daily routine is, what they get excited about, how they wish their life was different, or about their struggles with insecurity or procrastination, which are problems that a lot of grad students and junior researchers are struggling with, too. I think it’s important to mitigate that disconnect and let others see that they are real people too,” said Parikh, who is also a research scientist at Facebook AI Research (FAIR.)

Parikh hopes that the series will make a career in AI seem more accessible, and that current highly-regarded researchers in the field are approachable human beings.

“I hope this series will give the audience a better sense for what lives of AI researchers are like (turns out, lots of meetings!). I also hope they get various interesting tidbits – perspectives, tips, advice – that they may wish to adopt or try out,” said Parikh, “Finally, I hope that this series will encourage people to think bigger, dream bigger, and to see themselves in these roles. I hope they think ‘I can do this, too’ and not ‘that could never be me’ after listening to these conversations.”

While Parikh doesn’t have concrete plans yet for additional episodes outside of this set of 18, she’s not entirely ruling them out. New episodes will be available on Tuesdays and Fridays beginning on Oct. 20 on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and YouTube. For more information, including the full list of guests, visit http://humanstories.ai.

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