The Artificial Intelligence Revolution:

MIT's Washington Seminar Series 2023-2024

Join the MIT Club of Washington's 41st annual Seminar Series on an important national topic related to science, technology, and public policy. Each year, the series offers engineers, scientists, industry leaders, policymakers and educators an opportunity to explore a specific topic in depth. Take this opportunity to develop a better understanding of recent developments and key issues.

Each session begins at 6:15 PM with a cash bar, followed by dinner at 7:00, and the presentation from approximately 8:00 to 9:30. Presentations by distinguished speakers are followed by ample time for questions and discussion. The social hour and dinner provide additional opportunities to meet the speakers, renew acquaintances, or join in stimulating discussions with other participants.

The registration fee for the remainder of the Series is $185 for ColumbiaDC members, which includes all dinners. The registration fee for non-members is $260.

Purchase the lecture series here!

2023-2024 Seminar Series Description:

The methods and applications of Artificial Intelligence (AI) have changed significantly in the last several years, particularly with the release in November 2022 of a new generative AI tool called ChatGPT. Already these current AI tools can generate credible images, create documents in almost perfect English, replicate personal voices, and predict likely actions - and future improvements can be expected. But they also raise critical policy issues like accuracy, plagiarism, accountability, and economic disruption. This Seminar Series will examine the methods and impacts of these emerging AI tools, and the ethical challenges they raise.

Session Descriptions:

Tuesday, November 14, 2023: Introduction to Contemporary AI
Speaker: Prof. Eric Burger ’84, Research Director, Commonwealth Cyber Initiative, Virginia Tech

The AI world has advanced a lot in the last several years, even in the last several months. This includes machine learning, deep learning, neural networks, natural language models, and now commercial generative AI models that predict with surprising accuracy what the user will do or say next.  Already Google, Microsoft, and most other firms are quickly adding generative AI capabilities to their search and related products. But there are risks in using these new technologies, and we need to understand them.  This overview session will describe this AI evolution, identify the capabilities of current AI tools, and how the AI components relate to each other.

Tuesday, December 19, 2023: Natural Language Models
Speaker: Prof. Jacob Andreas, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), MIT

Natural language models are at the heart of many recent AI advancements, including ChatGPT, which was publicly released in November 2022. Their capabilities allow users to interact in conversational English and generate outputs in relevant and meaningful text. Applications exist in such areas as chatbots, content creation, language translation, and text-to-speech synthesis. We need to know how Large Language Models (LLM) work, and why they sometimes create misleading or false results. This session will discuss how LLMs are created/used, and will explore the connection between large language models and generative AI, including examining neural networks, training algorithms, and the importance of effective prompts.

Tuesday, January 9, 2024: The Risks and Possible Regulation of Using Advanced AI Tools
Speaker: Dr. Paul Werbos, former Program Director, Information Technologies, NSF

There are several significant risks raised by AI models that predict future events based upon digesting large amounts of data covering past events. Fairness, bias, and transparency are key examples. Some argue that AI advances could bring great harm or extinction to our society. Current generative AI models do make mistakes and sometimes produce incorrect or misleading predictions. As a result, there are calls for industry guidelines or governmental regulation on the fast-moving use of AI models- or at least a pause on further development of advanced AI tools. This session will explore the validity and status of these risks and the push for regulation- from a key player in funding AI research for decades. 

Tuesday, February 6, 2024: Future Directions for AI Research and Applications
Speaker: Dr. Daniel Weld ’88, Prof. Emeritus, Univ. of Washington, General Manager and Chief Scientist for Semantic Scholar, Allen Institute of AI.

The fast-moving revolution of AI tools and applications makes us wonder what comes next. The speaker will draw on his long career as an educator and entrepreneur in computer science to explore potential directions for AI. Where will the innovations be concentrated- in healthcare, in education, in cybersecurity, in enhancing productivity? He will incorporate the work of the Allen Institute for AI, a large non-profit research organization in Seattle with the mission of conducting high-impact AI research and engineering in service of the common good.

Tuesday, March 19, 2024: Machine Learning for Water and Agriculture
Speaker: Prof. Feras Batarseh, Department of Biological Systems Engineering, Virginia Tech

A key component of the evolving AI capabilities is the development and use of advanced machine learning and neural networks across different domains. This session will describe the steps necessary to set up and run an AI application using contemporary machine learning tools for agricultural and water systems. A recent application for water systems in the DC area will serve as an example. It will also explore the current competitive rush for many companies and supply chain producers to offer AI services and embed generative AI tools in their products.

Tuesday, April 9, 2024: The User's Perspective: Exploring New AI Tools
Speaker: Joanna Stern, Senior Technology Journalist, Wall Street Journal

Join us for an enlightening talk by Joanna Stern as she delves into the fascinating world of Generative AI Tools from the user's perspective. Generative AI has revolutionized various industries, from art and design to language processing and healthcare. However, understanding and navigating these cutting-edge tools can be a complex journey for users. The speaker will draw from her many interactions with both providers and users to shed light on the challenges and opportunities users face while engaging with these new AI tools. She will discuss how these tools can be used to improve our daily lives and what considerations are crucial for designing user-centric experiences. She will also talk about the key players in the AI industry and what directions this new AI technology might take.

Metro: Maggiano's is very near the Friendships Heights Metro station.

Parking: Discounted parking is available in the underground garage (marked Pavilion) for up to 4 hours - entry is from Military Road and park in the section labeled "Friendship Center" (look for the elevator with a Maggiano's sign). Bring your parking ticket to Maggiano’s for validation.

The restaurant is handicapped accessible.

January 09, 2024 at 6:15pm - 9:30pm

Maggiano's Little Italy Restaurant

5333 Wisconsin Ave
Washington, DC 20015
United States

Ken Gordon


$185.00 USD

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