Conversations on Applied AI

Amelia Winger-Bearskin - Using Empathy to Create Responsible Technology

July 05, 2022 Justin Grammens Season 2 Episode 19
Conversations on Applied AI
Amelia Winger-Bearskin - Using Empathy to Create Responsible Technology
Show Notes Transcript

The conversation this week is with Amelia Winger-Bearskin. Amelia innovates with artificial intelligence in ways that make a positive impact on our community and the environment. She's a Banks Family Preeminence Endowed Chair and Associate Professor of Artificial Intelligence and the Arts at the Digital Worlds Institute at the University of Florida. She's a 2019-2020 Mozilla Foundation Open Web Fellow in partnership with MIT Open Doc Lab, and MIT's Co-Creation Studio working on ethics and values-driven software development toolkit, among many other accomplishments. In 2019. She was an invited presenter to His Holiness Dalai Lama's world headquarters for the summit on fostering universal ethics and compassion. In 2018, she was awarded a MacArthur and Sundance Institute fellowship for her 360 Video immersive installation in collaboration with the artist Wendy Red Star. She holds a bachelor's degree in art and visual technologies from George Mason University, a master's degree in transmedia from the University of Texas at Austin, and MPS and ITP from New York University.

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Resources and Topics Mentioned in this Episode


Your host,
Justin Grammens

Amelia Winger-Bearskin  0:00  

It is really that humanities approach that allows us to look at something and see what is unseen to model what is outside of our own sort of lived experience to have a more empathetic approach to what we're trying to do that it benefits society. Otherwise we can create systems of harm without knowing it. And that happens all of the time. And that's something that as scientists and AI researchers, we need to begin to centralize our own responsibility in that and say that we are not separate somehow from the implications of this has on society. When we create a new technology, it is our responsibility to understand and outline the type of harm that it could create, or that it could cause in our community.

AI Announcer  0:43  

Welcome to the conversations on applied AI podcast where Justin grumman's and the team at emerging technologies North talk with experts in the fields of artificial intelligence and deep learning. In each episode, we cut through the hype and dive into how these technologies are being applied to real world problems today. We hope that you find this episode educational and applicable to your industry and connect with us to learn more about our organization at applied Enjoy.

Justin Grammens  1:14  

Welcome everyone to the conversations and apply to AI Podcast. Today we're talking with Amelia Winger-Bearskin. Amelia innovates with artificial intelligence in ways that make a positive impact on our community and the environment. She's a Banks Family Preeminence Endowed Chair and Associate Professor of Artificial Intelligence and the Arts at the Digital Worlds Institute at the University of Florida. She's a 2019-2020 Mozilla Foundation Open Web Fellow in partnership with MIT Opened Doc Lab, and MIT's Co-Creation Studio working on ethics and values driven software development toolkit, among many other accomplishments. In 2019. She was invited presented to His Holiness Dalai Lama's world headquarters for the summit on fostering universal ethics and compassion. In 2018, she was awarded and MacArthur and Sundance Institute fellowship for her 360 Video immersive installation in collaboration with the artist Wendy Redstar. She holds a bachelor's degree in art and visual technologies from George Mason University, a master's degree in transmedia from the University of Texas at Austin and MPS and ITP from New York University. Thank you, Amelia, for being on the applied AI podcast today.

Amelia Winger-Bearskin  2:20  

Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to be here. Obviously one of my favorite topic subjects.

Justin Grammens  2:27  

Well, for sure, since you're doing all sorts of interesting stuff at the University of Florida, maybe tell us a little bit more about maybe how you started and then how you got to where you are today?

Amelia Winger-Bearskin  2:35  

Absolutely, absolutely. Well, you know, I've been interested in the intersection of art and technology for as long as I can remember, I started out with my mother, who is a traditional storyteller, we're Seneca Cayuga Nation of Oklahoma. And my mother has a role as a storyteller, which is kind of like a politician, a performer, a writer, who goes and is able to gain the trust of elders to be given the stories and be steward a steward, and translator for the next generation. And so I would accompany my mother when we were when she was performing traditional storytelling. And I would either play the rattle or the drums or do dancing or kind of help with the more like artistic parts of the performance. I wanted to grow up to be a performer, like my mother. And my father was a technologist who worked at Kodak, he worked in the innovation lab, whose main sort of I guess, famous project that they did was the original first digital commercial digital camera. And he was always bringing home these, you know, toys from his lab after they're okay, we're not using this computer anymore. We're using this. And so we'd have all these kinds of toys that were for the visual arts for optics or photography for seeing. And he said, you know, if you want to be an artist and a performer, why don't you learn how to use this box, and he gave me like a Commodore 64, and then apple, two E and all these things and said, if you can figure out how to do what you want to do on these machines, that's really going to be the future. And the future will be this interactive type of performance through this thing called the internet. And at that time, the Internet was like a giant box with the actual telephone, put on top of it. Plugged. It wasn't even, you know, like a modem that kind of went through the audio receiver of the telephone. And I learned how to just cold call IPs in different places, which are usually companies and they would say, like, Who is this? And I'm like, This is Amelia, I'm six, you know, and they're like, What are you doing on our like modem line, I'm like, I don't know. I'm just like randomly generating IP address. So I had a lot of fun kind of exploring the early phases of the internet. And while also studying, I studied classical opera, the Eastman Conservatory of Music, and I studied the traditional forms of of handicrafts and design. And very quickly, in my first degree at George Mason, I was able to start combining them I actually was in an opera where they was with digital poetry theater on suburbia productions, where they used robotics and digital imagery and interactive projections. And at the time, we didn't have like projection mapping like we have now. Other GPUs really couldn't handle that. So we had actual physical robotics that would move around slide glass slide projectors, with live performers. And whenever we would have technical difficulties, I would be onstage in my costume like performing. And then I would say, Well, you know, actually, I know a lot about robotics, and I can kind of help you do this, or I can recode the thing you know, and everyone's like, Wait, I thought you're a singer. I'm like, Yes, I'm an opera singer. But by night, all I do is live on the internet, and I code with my friends. And that's kind of the place I would take some computer programming classes, but no one was interested in the internet at that point. And they didn't even kind of teach it in an exciting ways, and a lot of like, high school and middle school spaces. And I was able to really combine the art and technology right from the start and my first degree at George Mason, and then all of my subsequent degrees have actually been in that field of emerging technology in the creative arts, in live performance in fine art spaces. I found the most support for my work, actually, through museums. And even though I started out doing new opera, and kind of making very strange and weird operas for new opera festivals, it was actually the museum's that said, you know, rather than just once a year at a new form of Opera Festival, we actually are happy to show this stuff all the time. So I ended up kind of shifting my career slightly from just being in the sort of conservatory opera space to moving into fine art museums, and performance in that way.

Justin Grammens  6:21  

How do you get into these fine art museums? I mean, it seems like you could be building a lot of interesting and fun stuff, sort of in your in your studio. What was your path to, I guess, being introduced to the right people? Or was it just kind of the right place at the right time?

Amelia Winger-Bearskin  6:35  

Well, you know, I had a fairly successful opera career who's touring internationally, but I started off very young. I was 15 when I was at the conservatory at Eastman. And so I was traveling all over the world. And you kind of get like diagnosed by your voice, like I was a lyrical coloratura soprano. And so the roles I would usually play were like comedic roles, and Mozart opera. So like, I would play Despina from Kosovo vento day, and I got, you know, I was 15. And so I was very, like, interested in in the internet and kind of creating in those spaces with people from all over the world. And I felt like I wanted to do something different than just play sort of Despina the rest of my life, which is what I would have done, which is amazing. I mean, I've often talked to people at conservatories and other schools, and they're like, what's wrong with that, you could have just done that your whole life. And that's a beautiful life. And I'm like, I know, but I was kind of like, uh, you know, I had this creative spirit, I want you to something else, right, not just kind of perform the works that had been created by someone else, a genius Mozart, who I'm still an enormous fan of his work, I got to actually visit his house in in Austria recently. And it was just really, I don't know, lifelong drag. Anyways, that's an aside. So after I started becoming a composer and a performer in the sort of new opera space, which were operas that maybe could use electronic music, or interactive animation, or sort of using new technologies and opera museums offered to showcase this work. And then I found that they were willing to sort of showcase this work more regularly than the venues that in opera would only maybe once a season would be interested in something more experimental, whereas museum museums are kind of always interested in something that's experimental, right. And one of the first groups that I joined was called the perpetual art machine, a collective of video artists in New York City. And we ended up collaborating with apple on a new technology they had that was about this big, and it was a screen that you could touch. And it would do all these interesting things. And this was in, I guess, like 2005, right. So it was really before any touchscreen iPhone or iPad had come out. And so they're letting us use these really large prototypes. And we put them in the Guggenheim Museum and allowed the visitors to sort of touch them and interact with our videos to create a video installation that went up through the central chamber of the Guggenheim Museum, which was really fun. So that was kind of the first entryway I had into the art world was through that interactive experience. And it was a lot of it was a tremendous amount of fun, as you can imagine. And then, you know, I did become a professor at at Vanderbilt University in time based media and performance art. And I collaborated with Dr. Peter Simpson Gupta in learning sciences, who specialized in artificial intelligence and learning and his central research was really around teaching young children, you know, ages like third grade to middle school around embodied cognition and how we could use AI to sort of better teach ideas around coding and embodied cognition. And he had a theory that artists would be very successful in collaborating with him in this in this research, and so I worked with him. And that was sort of my first maybe official NSF AI research that I started to do. And we looked at the ways in which children could understand abstract concepts of modeling and AI, if we taught them how you would do it with art. So it would be kind of a one to one where, when you look at the world, when you represent an art, you're taking us on abstraction, you're looking at something and you're maybe looking at its geometric angles. And you're taking it and modifying it in your mind to represent it on a two dimensional piece of paper because the object like a tree, or a bird is not two dimensional, but you need to abstract it in such a way that you can represent it in a two dimensional way. So then the third process we would do is say, Okay, now that we've made it two dimensional, can we make it computational? What would be the ways that we describe this two dimensional image, and then that way, we were able to sort of help students understand computational abstraction. And it was it was very successful. So it was really fun to to work with him while I was at Vanderbilt University. So that was probably my first it wasn't my the first time I'd worked with AI, but probably the first time that I contributed to a large national AI project in that way.

Justin Grammens  10:45  

Fabulous. You know, I love that you're giving back as a teacher, it seems like many, many, whether it be at universities, whether it be whether you're working with these museums, or whatever it feels like you're always sort of interested in getting back and getting into organizations where you can share this information. I mean, I wanted to I wanted to say a couple different things. One, is it I'm not sure if you've read a book by Daniel Pink, it's called A Whole New Mind. And the story is, I think the subtext is, is why right brainers will rule the future. And people always have these ideas of like, left brain logic thinking is like the way to go, as you're learning and growing up, everyone thinks about the science mind, you know, you got to do this. But it seems like you came at it from the other side of it right? More the creative right brain aspect of it, how are you seeing that sort of play out, I guess, in the students that you teach, and the organizations that you're a part of the projects? Just curious, get your perspective on that?

Amelia Winger-Bearskin  11:36  

Yeah, absolutely. Well, you know, it's very important that we find bridges and ways of explaining all like all these ways that we've separated information to, like you said, the right brain left brain or, or scientific and mathematical way of perceiving and modeling the world to the artistic or humanities way of perceiving and modeling and understanding the world. They are not in any way separate. They're completely dependent, interdependent on each other. And the way that we understand and model one is very influenced by the other. And if we don't have a sort of comprehensive idea for both, we become blind to the other. And I guess a good example, is that machine bias that we have in computer vision, or many other fields of AI, if you're saying, Look, I'm just modeling the real world, and I'm doing it in Math and Math is always true, and always right, because it has this very definitive way of expressing all of the information that I'm sharing it within this box. But you don't have maybe a humanities perspective to say, well, who created that box? Right, who was a part of defining what was true? And who was dependent on testing this? Who was dependent on writing the policy around it? Why is your mindset understanding that this is a proper way of seeing, it is really that humanities approach that allows us to look at something and see what is unseen to model what is outside of our own sort of lived experience to have a more empathetic approach to what we're trying to do that benefits society. Otherwise, we can create systems of harm without knowing it. And that happens all of the time. And that's something that as scientists and AI researchers, we need to begin to centralize our own responsibility in that and say that we are not separate somehow from the implications of this has on society. When we create a new technology, it is our responsibility to understand and outline the type of harm that it could create, or that it could cause in our community.

Justin Grammens  13:33  

Yeah, so one of the things, Amelia that I was like, looking at is your website. And we will have liner notes to studio, and all sorts of other interesting facts that we're talking about here today. But as I was thinking about all of the projects that you've done, and you were mentioning, in your last thing around more on ethics and compassion, curious to know, like, what what projects have you done that you're maybe most proud of, either in that space or some some of the other things like related to artificial intelligence,

Amelia Winger-Bearskin  14:01  

I started a project in 2019 to 2020, when I was a Mozilla fellow called wampum talk codes and wampum dot codes, was a way of I wanted to co create with indigenous technologists a way to have ethical based software dependencies. And you know, like, could we in our package JSON encode ideas around what should the use be for this code? What should the thing that this is not used for? How do we outline the boundaries of the ethical considerations within this codebase? like you would with a dependency where you would say, Hey, you can't run this without having you know, this in this package? How do we say what type of package of ethics and values are needed to make this code and project successful and what things could break the trust of this project and then should be considered outside of its license? Right. And so 2020 Of course, we know, the pandemic started and I was supposed to be, you know, at Stanford, or I was supposed to be at MIT and And also at in San Francisco at the headquarters of Mozilla, and I lived in San Francisco at the time. So I was able to go a couple times to the headquarters, I was able to go once or twice to MIT. But then when the pandemic happened, I was no longer able to go to either in person anyways. And so I had to strategize. And I also plan to travel to the territory and reservations and locations and cities where my colleagues were, who are indigenous technologists. And I was going to do like a in person documentary, well, that switch to a podcast. So I created a podcast wampum dot codes. And our first season was really me having those interviews and open sourcing them in a way by having those conversations public around how I formulated a lot of the ideas that are the core backbone of the structure and process of creating your own ethical framework for software dependencies. And so it's not that I have created how everyone else should apply ethics to their software, I have created a template and a framework and a workshop, so that teams can say these are our values, this is how we can agree upon them. And then this is how we can embed them into practical simple language within our code base. And so it's really a project for developers. Oftentimes, I see where the rubber meets the road when it comes to ethics. And software's you have this again, a divide like that right brain left brain divide, again, between people who are in philosophy and ethics and law and policy, determining what are the right ways of thinking about ethics and software, but they are not the ones that actually are writing the lines of code. So now you're a developer saying, Okay, that's a really great book, I understand maybe 80% of it, because it's not my field. How do I though, translate that into this line of code, that is a tremendous task, that is tremendous task. And we're putting that all on people, without any framework, we're saying, it's up to you to read all of this literature and information, and then decide on your weekly sprint, how to communicate that with your team. That's a lot, right. And so this is tools that actually are developed for developers, to start having those conversations within their teams and making some of those decisions and trade offs and defining that with their, with their community, I don't come in and tell them what they should do, I come in and help them to be successful at implementing the values that they already have. So that's sort of what wampum dot codes is. And you know, it's a podcast. And it's this ethical framework for software development, that has writings and readings, but also a live workshop that I do, you know, either at conferences, or people will bring me in, and I'll do them over zoom. Obviously, it's been mostly over zoom, because of the pandemic. But yeah, that that project for me is going to continue to be ongoing, I would like to include more ways that I can engage younger people as well, because right now, it's primarily been the developers at Tech corporations. But I would love to also add people at nonprofits as well, and institutions and universities. But I would love to include even younger people as well, who are well as they're learning to code can start thinking about how they can think about what their code is used for. 

Justin Grammens  17:57  

Yeah, I love it. I mean, I don't think anyone has really taken that approach. Have Do you feel like this is sort of a new fresh look at it. Were there any other projects going on? As you've started building wampum?

Amelia Winger-Bearskin  18:07  

There is a couple of different ways like there's ethical Source Project is an interesting group. And they look at ethical dependencies and all different types of frameworks. Like, right now, when we make a coding project, the only sort of ethical choice we make in the beginning of it is when we choose, are we the MIT license? Or are we closed source, you know, like, what kind of open source license or closed source license, but that's really in copyright and international copyright law. So if I wanted to make it really depends on the law, I can say I'm open or enclosed. There's not a ton of other variations. And if I wanted to enforce that it's an enforcement that's just through the copyright framework. And that doesn't actually cover like values and ethics. If I wanted to use it, as long as I'm not close sourcing it, if I'm using it in a harmful way that actually doesn't cover it, right. Ethical sources, kind of looking at ways in which they could change copyright law or approach that in different ways. So they're a really interesting group. They don't necessarily have workshops for developers, but they are interested maybe more in a policy angle. They're a really great group, I highly recommend checking them out for anyone who's listening ethical sources, a great group. But yeah, I found that there was a whole sort of for developers, like what do you do for people who are just who are coders who are like, I want to do this? How do I do this? How do I bring up these conversations? You know, CEOs and leaders of companies have have brought me in because they're saying, you know, our developers are interested in these things. But they're not entirely sure how we can implement this into our weekly sprints. And so I give them sort of a tool in order to do that.

Justin Grammens  19:32  

That's amazing. Awesome, very cool. What you mentioned being a part of, I guess, indigenous people in technology, right, and I'm assuming you are an indigenous person. How has that changed your perspective with regards to artificial intelligence and and how you're working on it today? I guess is that pretty small community? I guess you are you looking to get does it help you with outside perspectives? Yeah, I'm just pretty open ended question I guess, here.

Amelia Winger-Bearskin  19:55  

Yeah. Yeah, totally. Well, I'm part of two really great groups. I'm in a group called native Some tech and then that also has another side sort of sister group indigenous AI. And there are, you know, indigenous people all over the world that are working in AI and are also working in tech, I think it's important to combine AI and tech since they have so many so many overlapping conditions, especially when it comes to ethics. And so those groups are, are pretty exciting. We have an annual conference, we also a lot of us have begun to present at imaginenative, which is a Film and Media Festival, which is now really embracing creative coding and creative technologists as well. So I have a workshop that's coming up for imaginative 2022 around creative coding. And so there are a lot of spaces where indigenous technologists and experts in AI sort of congregate and meet and, and collaborate as well. I think that there are so many diverse ways in which indigenous scientists and AI professionals contribute to our community. So I don't think I can make like a generalization. However, I think personally, growing up as an indigenous person embedded in a deeply connected community that that values, co creation, collaboration. And also, you know, I'm Seneca Cayuga. We're part of the Europe as what Western people call Iroquois nation, but we call ourselves the Haudenosaunee. We are a matriarchal and matrilineal culture. And so recently, I went on to a wonderful podcast that was 120 podcast hosted by my friend Ainsley. And I loved the questions that he asked me, because coming from a Jota, nashoni perspective, he would just say, oh, you know, as a woman who's naturally a leader in science, you know, or as a woman who's naturally a leader in policy, and as you know, like, all these things that were like, his framework of thinking was like, obviously, as a woman, you will be a leader in artificial intelligence was just like, how does that How do you help other women in that field like that? And that's very different than the way in which I would get a similar question from a Western person who might say, Is it very hard to be a woman in AI? And how do you see the challenges? But it was very interesting in from Audrina shoni perspective that it was just like, well, of course, as a woman, you'd be elite, because we're a matrilineal culture and our democracy is so led by by women and women are so much a part of leading the sciences and so much of what our culture has. So I thought, that's really interesting perspective.

Justin Grammens  22:21  

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah, I guess a lot of it just has to do with how you're brought up. And one of the things I'd like to mention at the beginning was I mean, I think it was your mother, you said was a storyteller. Whenever I try and do a presentation. And it feels like either I'm watching a presentation, or I just I just seem to observe, I seem to absorb a lot more if there's a story involved, right? People really feel like I at least I feel like I retain a lot of knowledge if there's more stories brought in. And maybe that's a part of who you are, I guess through your through through your mother, is that safe to say?

Amelia Winger-Bearskin  22:52  

Absolutely. I mean, you know, both my parents were storytellers. Even my father, as a technologist could just get up at a robe. And he would always say, if you're going to talk about an idea that you'd like people to remember, you just kind of Once Upon a Time it you know, you don't say once upon a time, but you'll be like, you just kind of get into that space, and you drop your voice into a calm manner. And you say, that reminds me of a story. And everyone just kind of tunes in and call in like their center of their being calms, and they become open to listening, because they know that you're not confronting or manipulating, you're sharing. And when you're sharing, people can be open to share as well, it becomes a receptive space. So I think there is so much tremendous power in storytelling. You know, at Sundance Film Festival, they say that storytelling is the oldest technology. So they kind of connect those two ideas that we as humans contextualize our lived experience through stories. And it's an important way in which we process time and information. And it is a very key way in which I teach or create my artwork, or the way in which I am an activist, or a community member is, is by being a storyteller. And sometimes that is a way of translating from one community to the next. I think it's easy for one community to maybe become empathetic towards another. When you tell a story, I can tell a story to AI professionals about the importance of art, and that helps them have empathy for this other perspective and vice versa.

Justin Grammens  24:20  

Very nice. I want to questions I'd like to ask people is how do you define artificial intelligence? If somebody asks you, either A, what does it mean? Or be I guess if your quick elevator pitch in terms of what you do during your job and how you incorporate AI? Do you have sort of a standard default answer?

Amelia Winger-Bearskin  24:37  

In my class, when we learn about AI? We started about 5000 years ago, because I want them to understand that AI has been a process that's been with humanity for probably as long as we have recorded history, and it's the way of understanding human intelligence. And I think it really is a field of understanding human intelligence. And it's called artificial because I think we're bringing In play into that space, we're trying to say, well, what if we changed it in this way? What if we change it in that way, which might not be ethical or responsible to do to a human child or to a human, but you can take it into an experimental phase? And say, yeah, what if we learned differently? Or what if we understood learning differently? And so I like to think of it as the scientific pursuit of understanding learning.

Justin Grammens  25:19  

That is great. No, that's perfect. I love it. I love it. That's good. Well, with regards to applications of artificial intelligence, you know, you're working a lot in in artistic endeavors. Do you see music being disrupted? And I guess I'm using disrupted in quotes, I guess. But artwork with regards to like painting, we got text, natural language processing, you see any one of those areas kind of being most impacted by this new technology? Or all of the above? Where are you mostly deeply focused on and looking at today,

Amelia Winger-Bearskin  25:49  

In my classes, for my students, I teach them how to use AI in absolutely every type of expressive media, and music and poetry, in screenwriting, in video and animation, everything, right, because I think it's very exciting all of the types of tools that, you know, I've also become a lot easier than when I started making creative applications of machine learning technologies. At the lab that I created in New York City, a lot of the artists residents who created film or sheet music or VR projects, what we did was quite difficult. And now, it's like a couple of API calls. And you can have a screenplay or you can have an image, that's great. It's really amazing how almost, you know, very user friendly, it has become for my students. So there really is no limit on the types of experiments that that they can create with expressive media. But when it comes to disruption, you know, I love that way that technology creates confusion and panic anytime it introduces a new type of tool when the piano was introduced, there wasn't recording technology, right. So that started, you know, people were writing about this tool that could play all of the notes with the same ease as anyone else. So when you're playing trumpet, you might have to, if you had to move from one note to another, there's certain things that can't work. And so you can't compose something. Because of the constraints of the instrument, you're like, if I if I want someone to play this, this, this note and then go to this, No, it'll, it'll make the sliding sound and it's not good. So it's better to have a middle note, right. So you have to have these constraints of the instrument, and they're like, Wait, this piano is it's going to make every other instrumentalists out of work, because it can play any note with ease, right, but no one could hear it because they didn't have recording. And there was panic, like this is going to put everyone out of a job. This is going to be the thing that ends you know, all symphonies like all this panic, right. And actually, none of those instruments that we had in that time period have disappeared, everything is kind of additive, and it grows. And of course, the piano just became another instrument in our orchestra. And it didn't replace anything. But it did change the way we started to compose it did change the way that music was understood, manufactured, reproduced, we had player pianos, we had automatic pianos, right, that ability did change. So I do think that that's what's going to happen in art that suddenly with this new tool, it will radically change the way that art is presented, and the value that we see in art. And I think that works like we see in the NFT space are challenging notions of value within art and challenging notions of of copyright and holding and rights within art. So it's very fascinating the way that technology is always disrupting the space of creative arts. But it's not something new. It's actually something that has been going on, since art has been called Art. And so

Justin Grammens  28:27  

you don't view this this new AI world as anything that's really any more different or should be viewed any more scary, I guess, as as just an evolution just just the next evolution.

Amelia Winger-Bearskin  28:38  

Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, you know, I grew up in Rochester, New York, because my dad worked at Kodak and I grew up across the street from the George Eastman mansion. So I used to climb over all his bushes and play around there as a child. And I would sneak into the museum all the time, and they just kind of got used to me, they're like, Okay, it's Amelia. She's just, you know, just hanging out here. And I got to go through that tour, maybe 1000 times of like, this is the life of George Eastman. And when he created the 35 millimeter film, which democratized the camera, really, and truly, because up until that point, it was really something that only people had specialized instruments could do in specialized chemicals. And it was more in a field of high art and crafts to be a portrait artist, rather than just someone who could own a small camera and take a photo and then drop it off at a lab and have photos right, he radically changed the way that people saw art. And everyone thought, this is the end of painting, no one will ever paint again, because every person can carry around a camera. Well, you know, if that's true, then we wouldn't have painting anymore, right? And we and that isn't true. But it did radically change what painting was. And in a lot of ways it is seen as the thing that was the genesis for abstraction in art and new ways of painting, rather than putting the value the highest value on something that was photorealistic. Which of course they didn't use that term, but something was very real, right. Having a portrait of someone that looked the most similar to real life was considered to be the most valuable once we had that camera. that changed. And suddenly people started seeing painting as really like, what is the movement of the brush and the color of the paints and the subjectivity of the artists became so important. And of course, abstract art changed the world. And it was a really, I don't know, very inspiring to me. So I think the camera did quite a lot, and also became itself a type of art form that is still very central to the way we see the world.

Justin Grammens  30:21  

Yeah, so it really isn't a competing art form, it was just something new, then that artists could now have another essentially tool in their toolbox to use as they were developing their art. Absolutely. I was thinking about just with regard to let me again, the early days of Photoshop, for example, right? I remember just seeing some amazing things that people could do. And it's just like, Well, then why why, you know, everything's gonna be done on the computer, and no one's gonna need to actually, like have a darkroom anymore. And I think, while to some extent, that's true, but there's still somebody still goes, I mean, I take a look at, you know, at baseball games in October, following sports or whatever, there's still people on the field that are taken, taking pictures, and they just they utilize Photoshop to do some interesting things with it. But at the end of the day, they're still out there taking the pictures, right, totally. Do you have any favorite book? I guess? Like, what are you reading these days? With stuff that you've maybe have read over time, you might suggest people pick up and and learn about this space?

Amelia Winger-Bearskin  31:16  

Oh, yeah. Well, you know, I have as the required reading in my class and illustrated guide to artificial intelligence, which is a very fun, you know, for, honestly, it's a great coffee table book, if you're not a student. And if you're a student, it's a really great introduction to the field of AI. And I liked that it starts, you know, 5000 years BC, and it kind of goes through each page is a different topic, like one page on Alan Turing one page on AlphaGo, right, all these kinds of one page one subject with a beautiful illustration. And I find that to be a fun conversation starter. So I have it on my coffee table. And people can kind of rifle through this and say, Wait a minute, they had an electric AI that could see or that could talk and like the 1890s and you're like yes, actually, it just kind of stretches people's thoughts about what when AI started and and what it has been doing in our culture. So I love that book. My students love it, too. They have a lot of fun reading that. And I also am very interested in reading lots of books around interspecies relationships within AI. So I have a couple of different books. I'm like looking over at my side, so I don't say the wrong thing. But I've been reading by Claire Evans broadband, which is the history of the internet from a lot of women who are creative artists that were very influential. I've also been reading braiding sweetgrass, which is a look at a botanical view of upstate New York from Seneca, you know, from the hood, you know, showing the Iroquois perspective and looking at science. And so I am always very interested in environmental science and those applications in AI. So that's what I'm reading lately.

Justin Grammens  32:48  

Oh, awesome. After we get done recording, this would be great for you to send me some of these links, you know, as well, I'll be sure to include those as well. How do you relax? I guess I'll tell you your personal life or outside of the professional world. I know you said you were going to be traveling, I think to Venice resort or you know, recently maybe it was it was a professional endeavor. But yeah, well, what are some of the things you enjoy doing?

Amelia Winger-Bearskin  33:07  

Yeah, I'm going to finish next week. So there's this thing in the art world called the Venice Biennale, LA. And it is kind of a big meeting place of artists, and innovators and entrepreneurs that meet in Venice for the whole entire city becomes part of this Biennale. It's really amazing. It's a lot of fun. So that's what I'll be doing next week, and presenting my work and being part of a group called unfinished camp, or it's kind of like a summer camp for adults and innovators who will get together and dream about the future and looking at kind of web three technologies and how, how that can be used and to support artists and to support an equitable future. So that's going to be work, but also incredibly fun. I've never been to Venice, and I'm very excited by work has been being all before, but I've never actually been able to go. So I'm very excited to go. And what I'm doing this summer is traveling quite a bit. And I'm hoping to record more of you know, my podcast and all the places that I go. And the thing that I do the most for fun is probably hanging out with my pets, I have, you know, my husband and my son are as in love with the pets as I am. So we usually have quite a bit of a cuddle puddle with our cat and our two dogs and each other. And it's probably what we do the most bang around and play with our pets.

Justin Grammens  34:19  

That's awesome, very cool. For young women, or men or boys, whatever it is sort of getting into this space. Well, how do you suggest that they? I don't know, start exploring this. You've I mean, you've got a ton of resources. Right, your there's your website with some of this information. Obviously books, you've mentioned that as well. You know, any sort of, you know, if I was just a young person sort of wanting to get into this space, what might you suggest I do?

Amelia Winger-Bearskin  34:42  

Well, I suggest finding a community. And so there's a lot of amazing creative coding communities out there and they all have their own discord and they all have their own slacks. And so the best thing to do is to join a community that way when you make your first project and you get your first error, and you go to Stack Overflow and can't figure it out, then you have this great coming Whatever you say, so, this thing, I did this thing, and that's really how all of us are successful. And I do not know how people do it alone. Like everyone says, I'm, I'm self taught at coding and I'm like, I am not self taught at anything. I'm always going to my community and saying, Ask, learning how to even ask the right question is really important. You know, oftentimes, you can ask a question on StackOverflow. And no one answers it because you didn't know how to ask it correctly, right? And so your community will tell you that they'll say, Oh, the reason people aren't answering that is because your problem isn't your problem. Like your problem is this other thing and let me look at your code and share your screen. And let's go through this and, or sometimes your you find your community at university, sometimes you find it in in a cool group that you are part of online, sometimes you find it in a club that you're a part of, I am one of those people that collects cohorts. I love to be part of cohorts. So I always will apply for different cohorts so that I can learn and those spaces, I kind of always raised my hand and say, This is my question. This is the issue I'm having, whenever I'm on a panel or giving a talk at a conference and there's like a lull. And everyone's like, well, I don't know if anyone has any more questions. What I say to people is I say, Look, if you have five minutes right now, and no one's asking me a question, do you have a technical error that you see on a project you're doing? Asked me? It's not an appropriate asked me right now. And I think just teaching people that it's okay to say, I, I'm having difficulty with this technical thing by code isn't working for this reason. And just saying, like, Look, I know, I'm on stage for a different reason. But if there's five minutes of someone's time that they're not doing anything, ask them, ask them about the issue you. That's how we learn. And just kind of normalizing that I think is really important. Because that's what all of us do, at any level of our stage of our career. We all run in tears, because we're in tech. So that means we're learning everything all over again every day, or trying out something we've never tried out before every day. Right. So yeah, so I think just normalizing that of saying like, yeah, all of us will have to ask someone else, how this works, how, why this doesn't work, and just helping them feel comfortable to do that.

Justin Grammens  36:56  

Yeah, I love that perspective. And I think that's what keeps me so excited with regards to technology is is, especially in this AI machine learning area. I was I was interviewing somebody just a couple days ago, and they said, you know, we're in the first inning of the baseball game, right? It's sort of what what they said people have not really yes, there's some really cool applications, we're talking about how it's gonna change the world. And there's some really neat, neat stuff. But we haven't even really scratched the surface with regards to how it's going to permeate our entire entire lives. From everything from from art, to personal digital assistants to self driving cars to all these sorts of interesting stuff. It's really, really fun. Well, Millia how do people reach out and connect with you? I'll again, I'll put a link to your website. You know, I know you're on LinkedIn and stuff, how do you are you on Twitter, Instagram,

Amelia Winger-Bearskin  37:39  

you know, do you want to put your name on every every possible social media I'm on I'm either studio Amelia, or I'm Amelia WB, like, it's a one or the other. And I also have a weekly zoom call that anyone's allowed to drop in called no dash And it's a group of creative technologists. And we all just kind of talk about how to support each other. So if you would like to chat again, it will be myself. And you know, usually it's about we have about 200 members, but it's usually 10 people every time. I don't know how that works, but it's always about 10 people. And so it's a fun kind of intimate group. And you can just ask people questions, or it's a way of kind of staying connected to our community, though, even though many of us are, you know, in different levels of quarantine and being separated from one another and not traveling. So feel free to join that. And then of course, my website, is a great way of finding out what I'm up to or seeing. And then of course, like probably Twitter is the best place to find out where I'm speaking next, or where I'm going to be live next. So

Justin Grammens  38:32  

Gotcha. Very, very cool. Well, are there any other topics or projects or things that you would like to share that maybe I didn't didn't really touch base here on?

Amelia Winger-Bearskin  38:39  

No, I think we covered it.

Justin Grammens  38:41  

Okay. Okay. Good is usually a question I just like to ask, I guess open it up. Because I will talk about some things. But if there anything in particular that you wanted to talk about, you're probably the first classical opera train person I've had on this program. So that's awesome. I mean, it's just I think the path of your career has been very, very fascinating. As I took a look at your website, I will encourage everyone to go ahead and take a look at it because there's just a wide wide range of projects. So appreciate what you do for the community and just continually being curious. And that's one of the one of the aspects that I try and adhere to as well is is the this is just the next step in our evolution as as humans and it's always fun to try and learn something and then give back and share what you learn.

Amelia Winger-Bearskin  39:25  

Absolutely. Well, thank you so much for having me. All right,

Justin Grammens  39:27  

Amelia, take care. And we will keep in touch for sure. Thank you.

AI Announcer  39:32  

You've listened to another episode of the conversations on applied AI podcast. We hope you are eager to learn more about applying artificial intelligence and deep learning within your organization. You can visit us at applied To keep up to date on our events and connect with our amazing community. Please don't hesitate to reach out to Justin at applied If you are interested in participating in a future episode. Thank you for listening