It’s about people and not machines. That was clear after the successful Luddy School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering’s Luddy Artificial Intelligence Center opening celebration on March 8.
The Luddy AI Center will bring together faculty and students from across the university to investigate artificial intelligence’s challenges and opportunities from technical, societal, scientific and applied perspectives. Designing AI systems with people in mind can lead to breakthroughs in areas such as improved medical care and safer transportation.
“It’s not about creating AI systems that are going to take over and replace people,” said David Crandall, the center’s director and Luddy Professor of computer science. “It’s about how to make AI systems that will help us live better lives.”
More than 100 people attended three hours of talks and panel discussions in LAIC’s state-of-the-art classroom, and then toured about 50 AI-themed posters and demonstrations.
“The LAIC allows us to combine artificial intelligence with Indiana University's focus on humanities,” said Joanna Millunchick, Luddy School dean. “Our questions are different, and our solutions are much more people centered.”
In other words, humanity over machine.
“A lot of AI work centers around people,” Crandall said. “Even the highly technical work is not about building AI for AI’s sake, but to ensure AI can communicate with people, learn from people and its own experience, explain its reasoning to people, improve people’s health and well-being, protect people’s privacy and security, complement people’s artistic expression, help people learn better, and so on.”
Some of the Center’s goals include advocating for diversity, equity and inclusion in how AI is developed and used, projecting a stronger message of how IU’s AI work impacts people around the state, country and world, recruiting exceptional faculty, staff and students to IU, and helping to spark new AI-related collaborations between IU researchers.
“We also want to help people around the university and the state who want to use AI and don’t know how to get started,” Crandall said.
LAIC will feature the AI Clinic, which is an on-ramp to using AI for everything from short consultations to long-term research collaboration, as well as providing AI expertise for projects, grant proposals and more.
One early client is Focused Results Scouting, a start-up company designed to improve athletic teams’ performance. Crandall said Luddy students are developing AI techniques to analyze football games and identify ways to improve player safety.
LAIC will work to keep IU at the national forefront in artificial intelligence research. Luddy faculty collaborate with experts from other IU departments, schools and programs to provide unique educational and research opportunities ranging from developing new machine-learning algorithms and models to understanding the connections to human cognition, behavior and health, and much more.
Celebration highlights included:
Dan Friedman, professor of computer science, and Anurag Mendhekar, who earned his Ph.D. in computer science from IU, and is currently president and co-founder of Paper Culture LLC, discussed their new book, The Little Learner: A Straight Line to Deep Learning, which uses clear explanations, a conversational style, and humor to explain the workings of deep neural networks. Their learn-by-doing approach allows anyone with knowledge of high school math and some programming experience to construct a deep neural network from scratch -- starting with little programs and first principles until a complete application is created that recognizes signals in noisy data.
“We’re not dumbing it down, but making it accessible,” Mendhekar said.
Friedman added, “We hope you have as much fun reading the book as we did writing it.”
The 2021-22 Luddy Faculty Fellows each gave a talk highlighting their areas of research, which are all AI-related.
Kahyun Choi, assistant professor of information and library science, delivered a presentation on AI for Literature and computational poetry analysis. Paul Macklin, associate professor of intelligent systems engineering, talked about preparing cancer patient digital twins to forecast disease progression and treatment. Justin Wood, associate professor of informatics, discussed reverse engineering, how real animals such as baby chicks understand the visual world around them, and how that information could create better AI systems.
The program included a panel on ChatGPT and the future of AI with several Luddy School faculty, including Johan Bollen, professor of informatics, David Leake, professor of computer science, Gregory Rawlins, associate professor of computer science, and Selma Šabanović, professor of informatics and associate dean for graduate education.
ChatGPT, which debuted in November of 2022, writes, answers questions, and even takes tests almost as well as humans, but can also lead to bias, misinformation and potential academic fraud. The panel addressed AI’s opportunities and challenges, including its potential to manipulate people and disrupt society, its enormous computational cost, as well as the importance of embodied systems like robots in developing AI.
The celebration concluded with a demo-and-poster session which highlighted student work in a variety of AI-related areas.
“You seldom mingle with so many researchers in such a convenient setting,” said Prateek Srivastava, a Ph.D. student in Intelligent Systems Engineering, “and to know what they are doing in their respective fields. It was great. I hope more of these are coming.”
Crandall said he hopes to have one such event per semester.
“The Center will evolve over time,” he said. “AI research is going on everywhere, but we have fantastic researchers and unique strengths at IU that we need to showcase.”
Added Mullinchick: “The LAIC supports excellent research that is innovative, imaginative and pushes new boundaries. And what’s really exciting is that this is just the starting point.”