Articles  |    |  November 13, 2018

Fei-Fei Li’s Quest to Make AI Better for Humanity

News article by Jesi Hempel.
Published in Wired.


Artificial intelligence has a problem: The biases of its creators are getting hard-coded into its future. Fei-Fei Li has a plan to fix that—by rebooting the field she helped invent.

Sometime around 1 am on a warm night last June, Fei-Fei Li was sitting in her pajamas in a Washington, DC, hotel room, practicing a speech she would give in a few hours. Before going to bed, Li cut a full paragraph from her notes to be sure she could reach her most important points in the short time allotted. When she woke up, the 5’3″ expert in artificial intelligence put on boots and a black and navy knit dress, a departure from her frequent uniform of a T-shirt and jeans. Then she took an Uber to the Rayburn House Office Building, just south of the US Capitol.

Before entering the chambers of the US House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, she lifted her phone to snap a photo of the oversize wooden doors. (“As a scientist, I feel special about the committee,” she said.) Then she stepped inside the cavernous room and walked to the witness table.

The hearing that morning, titled “Artificial Intelligence—With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility,” included Timothy Persons, chief scientist of the Government Accountability Office, and Greg Brockman, cofounder and chief technology officer of the nonprofit ­OpenAI. But only Li, the sole woman at the table, could lay claim to a groundbreaking accomplishment in the field of AI. As the researcher who built ImageNet, a database that helps computers recognize images, she’s one of a tiny group of scientists—a group perhaps small enough to fit around a kitchen table—who are responsible for AI’s recent remarkable advances. [ . . . ]