Nerd Nite SF #107: AI Bias, Swarm Robots, and Fungi!This month features AIs learning from people, robots learning from insects, and people learning from fungi! You get to learn all that from a computer scientist, a roboticist, and a mycologist. And you can learn the art of award-winning sammies from GrilledCheezGuy, a new drink from the Rickshaw Stop bartenders, and a new song from DJ Alpha Bravo while you’re at it. Be there and be square!

Wednesday, 4/17/2019
Doors at 7 pm, show at 8
Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell Street @Van Ness
$10, all ages
Tickets here

“Do as I Say, Not as I Do: Can We Avoid Imparting Human Biases to Computers?” by Cynthia Lee

As the AI revolution is poised to impact nearly every facet of life, concerns are mounting about how training computers to think like us can amplify some of the worst parts of ourselves. Is our training data teaching machines to adopt human biases on race, gender, age, and more? We’ll look at concrete examples of these issues, as well as consider how we got here, starting with basic questions of who decides who gets to see themselves as “a computer person,” and how early experiences shape our perceptions of our relationship to technology.

Cynthia is a Lecturer in the Computer Science Department at Stanford. She has a PhD in high-performance computing from UC San Diego and also taught there before moving to Stanford. Her industry work experience includes NASA Ames and startups.


“Swarm Robotics: How to Build an Ant Farm” by Iain Brookshaw

Robots, those complex autonomous machines, are just not all that exciting. Thousands of them? Better, but still insufficiently terrifying. But what if we make them *swarm* like insects in vast hives of robotic bugs? Now we’re talking!

We’ll learn how to mimic ants, bees and termites in autonomous machines. See why building robotic insects is a good idea, how artificial swarms work, and how a giant, terrifying ball of ants can be used as the basis for solving some of the hard problems in robotics. So let’s build an ant farm (some assembly required)!

Iain earned his PhD in Robotic Engineering at the University of Southern Queensland, Australia in 2016, and is very proud of the swarm of four robot ants he built so long ago. After a stint as a postdoc at UMD and USC, he now builds robots in SF for a living, which is so much more interesting than academic papers.


“Fungal in the Jungle” by Jessie Uehling

More details on Jessie’s talk is coming, but we can tell you she’s traveled across two continents exploring the diversity and beauty of the fungal denizens of the tropical rainforest. Jessie is a mycologist and evolutionary geneticist captivated by how symbioses – mutually benefical relationships between different organisms – are established, maintained, and evolve over time. By studying fungus and their plant hosts from rainforests in South America and Africa, she looks for patterns to better understand the evolutionary history of the fungus among us.

Jessie is currently a postdoc at UC Berkeley but is off to an Associate Professorship in the Botany and Plant Pathology Dept at Oregon State University soon.


With: Alpha Bravo, who’ll be spinning tunes specially selected to match the presenters’ themes. Follow the set list on Twitter @djalphabravo.

Food: Glorious grilled cheese from the one and only GrilledCheezGuy.