NeurIPS and AI Research with Anima Anandkumar

Melanie is solo this week talking with Anima Anandkumar, a Caltech Bren professor and director of ML research at NVIDIA. We touch on tensors, their use, and how they relate to TensorFlow. Anima also details the work she does with NVIDIA and how they are helping to advance machine learning through hardware and software. Our main discussion centers around AI and machine learning research conferences, specifically the Neural Information Processing Systems conference (commonly referred to as NIPS) and the reason they have rebranded. NIPS originally started as a small conference at Caltech. As deep learning became more and more popular, it grew exponentially. With the higher attendance and interest, the acronym became center stage. Sexual innuendos and harassing puns surrounded the conference, sparking a call for a name change. At first, conference organizers were reluctant to rebrand and they used recent survey results as a reason to keep NIPS. Anima discusses her personal experience protesting the acronym, opening up about the hate speech and threats of which she and others received. Despite the harassment, Anima and others continued to protest, petition, and share stories of mistreatment within the community which helped lead to the name/acronym change to NeurIPS. The rebranding hopes to reestablish an inclusive academic community and move the focus back to machine learning research and away from unprofessional attention. Anima Anandkumar Animashree (Anima) Anandkumar is a Bren professor at Caltech CMS department and a director of machine learning research at NVIDIA. Her research spans both theoretical and practical aspects of machine learning. In particular, she has spearheaded research in tensor-algebraic methods, large-scale learning, deep learning, probabilistic models, and non-convex optimization. Anima is the recipient of several awards such as the Alfred. P. Sloan Fellowship, NSF Career Award, Young investigator awards from the Air Force and Army research offices, Faculty fellowships from Microsoft, Google and Adobe, and several best paper awards. She is the youngest named professor at Caltech, the highest honor bestowed to an individual faculty. She is part of the World Economic Forum’s Expert Network consisting of leading experts from academia, business, government, and the media. She has been featured in documentaries by PBS, KPCC, wired magazine, and in articles by MIT Technology review, Forbes, Yourstory, O’Reilly media, and so on. Anima received her B.Tech in Electrical Engineering from IIT Madras in 2004 and her PhD from Cornell University in 2009. She was a postdoctoral researcher at MIT from 2009 to 2010, visiting researcher at Microsoft Research New England in 2012 and 2014, assistant professor at U.C. Irvine between 2010 and 2016, associate professor at U.C. Irvine between 2016 and 2017, and principal scientist at Amazon Web Services between 2016 and 2018. Cool things of the week Taking charge of your data: using Cloud DLP to de-identify and obfuscate sensitive information blog Unlocking what’s possible with medical imaging data in the cloud blog Google makes dataset of 50 million drawings available on its cloud blog Machine learning on machines: building a model to evaluate CPU performance blog Interview Anima at TensorLab site NeurIPS site Petition site Name Change (results of the poll) letter Johns Hopkins University letter letter AI Researchers Fight Over Four Letters article From the Board: Changing our Acronym letter TensorFlow site NVIDIA site Question of the week What are some actions I can take if I’m being trolled, harassed and/or bullied online or I want to be proactive about my safety? If you are experiencing harassment, tell someone who can support you, document it, and assess escalating to authorities depending on the severity. Surveillence Self-Defense Preventing Doxxing Where can you find us next? Mark will be at KubeCon in December. Melanie will be at SOCML this week and NeurIPS next week. She’ll be attending WIML, Black in AI, and LatinX.

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