When I was a high-school sophomore, I participated in a research program at USC where I worked alongside Ph.D. students to investigate the causes of muscular dystrophy. My tasks included protein extraction and blot imaging along with compiling my findings into a presentation that I would present at a symposium. This experience sparked my interest in research and encouraged me to actively seek more research opportunities.
My career focus always revolved around sustainable technology, but participating in the fellowship helped me realize my fascination with machine learning and artificial intelligence. Though, what pushed me to participate in AI Ethics was my writing class which centered on technology and social change. While writing an essay on social media and activism, it occurred to me how much technology can impact communities and the importance of promoting social good.
Unfortunately, my engineering discipline does not encompass this particular field but as someone who enjoys applying their knowledge to real-world problems, I was determined to learn more with the creAItivity AI Ethics Lab Fellowship.
Although my cohort experienced a troubling start with member inactivity and brainstorming, our remaining members easily overcame this obstacle by acknowledging our limitations and concentrating on tasks we could accomplish. Initially, our idea included social media as a platform for activism and awareness but eventually transitioned to imitating one aspect of our chosen technology. Our topic was emotional AI, a subset of artificial intelligence that measures and interprets human emotion, so we developed a circuit that determined whether an individual was angry based on the volume of their voice using simple hardware components. Our project was awarded second place overall.
Given AI and machine learning are very broad fields, my advice for those interested is to find what suits their career interests.
Whether your preference concerns software, hardware, or even delves outside the field of STEM, there are many ways to get involved with AI. As an electrical engineer, my discipline takes the best of both worlds in terms of software and hardware engineering. Emotional AI, in particular, integrates human physiology and computer algorithms so the expertise of psychologists, neuroscientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and politicians are essential to the development of this technology. While engineers are responsible for building this technology, we need companies and legislators to regulate its usage for the safety of consumers. Furthermore, we need the work of neuroscientists and psychologists to accurately measure and interpret human emotion (helps avoid algorithm bias).
Of course, my involvement in AI Ethics won’t end here. My university offers a wide range of research opportunities, and after completing the program, I have a clearer understanding of what kind of research I want to pursue. I look forward to learning more about the future of AI and what role it plays in environmental sustainability!