An exploration of cyborg fictions and futures (Mar 7)

I had a blast giving a joint keynote along with Robocop screenwriter Ed Neumeier at the H+ Film Festival: An exploration of cyborg fictions and futures.

“What kind of future are we moving towards with advances in robotics, prosthetics, artificial intelligence, and body augmentation? The idea of transhumanism (H+) suggests that the future is bright, with extended human lifetimes coupled with higher quality of life. However, in popular science fiction, the future is often not so bright. Will humans eventually transcend their bodies and become higher beings, or will technology reduce humans into mere machines? This film festival (part of the Crown Social Fiction Conference) seeks to compel these conversations with screenings of the science fiction classics RoboCop (1987) and Ghost in the Shell (1995), as well as the documentary Transcendent Man (2009). Following Transcendent Man, we will have a guided discussion, featuring panelists Ed Neumeier (cowriter of the original RoboCop and UCSC alumnus), Dr. Vivienne Ming [Hey, thats me!] (theoretical neuroscientist, entrepreneur, and visiting scholar at UC Berkeley), and UCSC’s Dr. Chris Gray (lecturer at Crown College and author of the book Cyborg Citizen). They will explore these questions and examine the relationship between the fictions that awe us and the realities that face us.”

Deep Learning Summit (Feb 14)

Being chair of the Deep Learning Summit 2015 in San Francisco was exhausting. Who knew telling dumb jokes staegically designed to bridge two unrelated talks could be so much work. From my experience, MCing and moderating are much more work and stress than speaking (which I also did). You’re responsible for making all of the speakers look good, not just yourself…which is hard enough.

The upside of Chairing the event was that I was forced to pay attention the whole time — I’ve gotten very bad about that at other conferences — giving me the chance to see some amazing work. As a scientist I loved all of the research talks but I’ll highlight a few of the demos:

  • MetaMind’s fast, trainable deep learning platform was something I intend to leverage.
  • On-chip deep neural networks from TerraDeep bring ubiquitous sensors into the mix.
  • Can DNNs “understand” beauty and creativity? Researchers from Flickr and Yahoo showed their results in this area.