Michael Jordan explains why today’s AI systems aren’t actually intelligent

CS Prof. Michael I. Jordan is the subject of an IEEE Spectrum article which describes his life, research, and philosophy.  A computer science pioneer, Jordan blended CS, statistics, and applied mathematics, to help transform unsupervised machine learning into a powerful algorithmic tool for solving problems in fields like natural language processing, computational biology, and signal processing.  He explains that machine learning is, in essence, a new field of engineering focused on the interface between people and technology.  The optimal goal of machine learning should not be artificial imitation of human thinking since that is something human beings can already do for themselves.  Instead, AI should be focused on helping humanity solve the problems that it has created.  “While the science-fiction discussions about AI and super intelligence are fun, they are a distraction,” Jordan says. “There’s not been enough focus on the real problem, which is building planetary-scale machine learning–based systems that actually work, deliver value to humans, and do not amplify inequities.

Rediet Abebe tackles inequality through algorithms

CS Assistant Prof. Rediet Abebe is the subject of a profile in Quanta Magazine which describes how she uses the tools of theoretical computer science to understand pressing social problems -- and try to fix them.   Abebe, who is from Ethiopia, earned a B.A. in mathematics from Harvard, attended a one-year intensive math program at Cambridge, and switched to Computer Science at Cornell where she earned her Ph.D.   She was drawn to CS because it allowed her to apply mathematical thinking to social problems like discrimination, inequity and access to opportunity.  Abebe has co-founded two organizations: Black in AI, a community of Black researchers working in artificial intelligence, and Mechanism Design for Social Good, which brings together researchers from different disciplines to address social problems. The Q&A interview discusses her life and career choices, as well as her research and its applications.

Nir Yosef creates algorithm to integrate single-cell data from multiple sources

CS Associate Prof. Nir Yosef has joined with colleagues in Bioengineering to write an algorithm called totalVI that uses deep learning to integrate gene and protein data about single cells, and which will allow collaborative experiments to be more accurate and efficient.   TotalVI will help to manage, analyze, and distribute gene and protein data about single cells that were gathered from different tissues and donors, and that were processed in different labs, into a single organizational system.  “The combination of CITE-seq (an RNA sequencing technique) and totalVI allows us to estimate, from the same cell, not only its gene expression but also the expression of the cell membrane proteins,” said Yosef.  “Those tell us a lot about the biology of the cells, since working with these proteins is kind of the standard in immunology.”  The new algorithm will enable researchers to integrate single-cell datasets from labs around the world, and will aid the progression of global knowledge bases.

Rediet Abebe to participate in NSF/CEME Decentralization 2021

CS Assistant Prof. Rediet Abebe will be moderating a problem solving session at the 2021 NSF/CEME Decentralization Conference.  The theme of this year's conference is "Mechanism Design for Vulnerable Populations." Abebe's session will be designed to help academics understand the challenges facing refugees and practitioners working on refugee issues globally, and to facilitate a dialog between these practitioners and experts in the academic community. Abebe is co-founder and co-organizer of the multi-institutional, interdisciplinary research initiative Mechanism Design for Social Good (MD4SG).  The 2021 conference will be hosted in April by the Center for Analytical Approaches to Social Innovation (CAASI) in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA) at the University of Pittsburgh.  The conference series is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) in support of Conferences on Econometrics and Mathematical Economics (CEME), and administered through the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).

Alvin Cheung and Jonathan Ragan-Kelley win 2020 Intel Outstanding Researcher Award

EECS Assistant Profs. Alvin Cheung and Jonathan Ragan-Kelley are among 18 winners of Intel's 2020 Outstanding Research Awards (ORA). These awards recognize exceptional contributions made through Intel university-sponsored research.  Cheung and Ragan-Kelley are developing ARION, a system for compiling programs onto heterogeneous platforms. The team will use verified lifting, which rewrites legacy code into a clean specification, stripping away optimizations that target legacy architectures. This spec, written in a DSL, can then be compiled to new platforms, sometimes with orders of magnitude of speedup in resulting code performance.

Anca Dragan wins 2021 IEEE RAS Early Career Award

Anca Dragan has won the 2021 IEEE Robotics and Automation Society Early Career Award - Academic "For pioneering algorithmic human-robot interaction."  This award is bestowed on current members of IEEE who are in the early stage of their career, and who have made an identifiable contribution or contributions which have had a major impact on the robotics and/or automation fields.  Dragan runs the InterACT lab and is the principal investigator for the Center for Human-Compatible AI.  Her research explores ways to enable robots to work with, around and in support of people, autonomously generating behavior in a way that formally accounts for their interactions with humans.

Scott Aaronson, Manuel Blum, Shafi Goldwasser and Stuart Russell among Top 20 Influential Computer Scientists

CS alumnus Scott Aaronson (Ph.D. '04, advisor: Umesh Vazirani) ranked #4, Prof. Emeritus Manuel Blum ranked #11, alumna and Prof. Shafi Goldwasser (M.S. '81/Ph.D. '84, advisor: Manuel Blum) ranked #12, and Prof. Stuart Russell ranked #14 on Academic Influence's list of the Top Influential Computer Scientists from 2010 to 2020.  Scholars are ranked using a methodology that includes the number of citations, as well as their web presence,  to determine their impact and influence over society in the past 10 years: "Some have had revolutionary ideas, some may have climbed by popularity, but all are academicians primarily working in computer science."  Aaronson, now at the University of Texas, Austin, is one of the world's leading experts in quantum computing; Blum, now at Carnegie Mellon, works on the theoretical underpinnings of programming and algorithms, notably computational complexity theory, cryptography, and program verification; Goldwasser is an expert in computational complexity theory, cryptography, and number theory; and Russell, the author of the most popular textbook on Artificial Intelligence, is an expert in machine learning and reasoning, and a major proponent of provably beneficial AI.

Cloud startup Databricks raises $1 billion in Series G funding

Databricks, a cloud startup founded by CS Adjunct Assistant Prof. Ali Ghodsi, CS Prof. Scott Shenker, CS Prof. Ion Stoica, and alumni Andrew Konwinski (M.S. '09/Ph.D. 12, advisor: Randy Katz), Reynold Xin (Ph.D. '13, advisor: Ion Stoica), Patrick Wendell (M.S. '13, advisor: Ion Stoica), and Matei Zaharia (Ph.D. '13, advisors: Scott Shenker & Ion Stoica), has received $1 billion in a Series G funding round.  Franklin Templeton led the round and now values the company at $28 billion.  Amazon Web Services, CapitalG, the growth equity arm of Google parent Alphabet, and Salesforce Ventures are backing Databricks for the first time, while Microsoft joins a group of existing investors including BlackRock, Coatue, T. Rowe Price and Tiger Global.  Ghodsi, who is CEO of the company, says Databricks plans to use the funds to accelerate its international presence. “This lets us really hit the gas and go aggressive in these big markets. It’s almost like starting the company all over again,” he says.  Databricks grew out of the AMPLab project and is built on top of Apache Spark, an open-source analytics tool developed at Berkeley.  The company provides data analytics and AI tools to businesses.  It has grown more than 75% year-over-year, with the majority of its revenue coming from enterprises like Comcast, Credit Suisse, Starbucks and T-Mobile, who use it as a "data lake house"--a place to store structured and unstructured data, then layer business intelligence or machine-learning tools easily on top.

Alessandro Chiesa named 2021 Sloan Research Fellow

EECS Assistant Prof. Alessandro Chiesa has been selected as a 2021 Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow in Computer Science.  Awarded annually since 1955, the Sloan fellowships honor "the most promising scientific researchers working today...extraordinary U.S. and Canadian researchers whose creativity, innovation, and research accomplishments make them stand out as the next generation of scientific leaders."  Chiesa conducts research in the areas of complexity theory, cryptography, and security, focusing on the theoretical foundations and practical implementations of zero knowledge proofs that are short and easy to verify. He is an author of libsnark, a C++ library for zkSNARKs, which is the leading open-source library for succinct zero knowledge proofs. He is also a co-inventor of Zerocash, a new protocol that provides a privacy-preserving version of a cryptocurrency, and a co-founder of Zcash, a digital currency with strong privacy features.  Sloan Fellows receive $75,000, which may be spent over a two-year term on any expense supportive of their research.

Melody Ivory to speak at Women in Tech Symposium

EECS alumna Melody Ivory (M.S. 1996/Ph.D. 2001, advisor: Marti Hearst), the first Black woman to earn a doctorate in Computer Science at UC Berkeley, has been chosen as the keynote speaker who will close the 5th Annual Women in Tech Symposium, hosted at Berkeley on March 12, 2021.  This year's symposium has the theme "The New Era in Human-Computer Interaction, and will be sponsored by CITRIS and the Banatao Institute."  Ivory has been a Google innovation facilitator, a consumer electronics and software product manager, and is now a founder and Technologist at Thrivafy, a professional development platform focusing on Black, Indigenous, and Latinx women in tech.  The symposium will kick-off with a fireside chat between EECS Prof. and Dean of Berkeley Engineering, Tsu-Jae King Liu, and UCSC Computational Media Prof. Leila Takayama, and will close with a talk by Ivory titled, “Sustainable Disruption: Ensuring an #InclusiveHCI Future Is Not Enough.”