Over the coming months I want to get to know the people behind artificial intelligence better. Or, to be more specific, the people behind machine learning – the use of algorithms and statistical models to get a machine to perform a task without explicit rules. 

Why do I want to do this? Well, if you can believe the hype, artificial intelligence is going to penetrate every facet of our lives. It’s going to detect our tumours, drive our cars and fight our wars. They say it can solve our big problems – from climate change to death – but that it might also be our ‘last invention’. 

So it seems a good idea to know a bit more about a technology that could apparently have such a huge impact. And we’re not just talking about the technology here, but more importantly about the people behind it. Because the name might imply that there is no human being involved in artificial intelligence, but the reality is different. 

Artificial intelligence is a human endeavour. 

Illustrated avatar of a woman big eyes and long dark hair on a yellow background, Sanne Blauw. Artificial intelligence is more human than it seems. So who’s behind it? If the hype is true, artificial intelligence will find our tumours, drive our cars and fight our wars. Time to get to know the people behind it. Read more about my plans in this article

Can you help me?

As I said, I am focusing on machine learning (ML) in this project. Nearly everything you hear about AI is about ML, so that’s where I want to start. 

There are roughly four stages to building a machine-learning application. Before you can train an AI model, you have to collect data. That data often has to be cleaned up or added to. To distinguish between a cat and a dog, for instance, first you have to label them both.

Then it’s time to develop the application, time for the machine to learn its task. The data are used to train a model to – say – recognise faces, predict energy prices, or translate a text. Eventually the application ends up on our computers, in our surgeries, in our town halls, and we start to use it. And by using it, we generate new data and the cycle starts over again.

An illustrated question mark is being built by little human-like figures.

I would very much like to talk to people who work on one or other part of this cycle. Do you, for instance: 

  • Build or implement tracking cookies?
  • Drive a Google Streetview car?
  • Work on or another platform on which people get hired to do this kind of work? 
  • Moderate content? 
  • Use machine learning in your work?
  • Work on digital rights or otherwise engage in activism or policymaking? 
  • Know the sector well, for example because you once worked in it or did research on it? 

These are just a few examples. If you work in the machine learning sector and are willing to share your story, then I would love to talk to you.

Who are you? How do you go about your work? Why do you do what you do? I hope to talk to people from all around the world, so feel free to share this with your international network. 

Do you think you can help me? You can leave me your details on the form below. Or share this call in your network. Many thanks in advance!

Do you want to help me? Here you can leave your contact details or someone else’s. Fill out the form here

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