CSE Professor Separates AI Fact from Fiction at San Diego Comic-Con

Jul 18, 2017

San Diego Comic-Con 2017 gets underway on Thursday, July 20, and while a lot of students and some faculty from CSE will likely be attending the pop-culture event, one CSE professor will have the opportunity to talk about her own field of academic work along with some big names from the world of science fiction.

CSE assistant professor Ndapa Nakashole

CSE assistant professor Ndapa Nakashole, a member of CSE's Artificial Intelligence Group, will be among the select few researchers invited to discuss the future of artificial intelligence with producers and screenwriters of some well-known science-fiction films and TV shows. The panel is organized by the Fleet Science Center, and will feature Hollywood writers Craig Tilley (who writes for and produces Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) and William Wisher, Jr. (who wrote the screenplays for The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day). Other sci-fi writers and artificial intelligence researchers are also likely to join the conversation which will take place on Friday, July 21 at 4:30pm in room 24ABC of the San Diego Convention Center. To set the stage, organizers said they hope to pose the big questions about the future of AI: "How does real AI science compare to its depictions in movies, on TV and in books? Could AI save the world -- or be its doom?"

In the spring Nakashole taught a course on statistical natural language processing (NLP), one of her main research interests in addition to machine learning. In her session at Comic-Con, Nakashole is likely to drawn on her experience with developing algorithms that enable computers to understand and generate human language. Specifically, she is working on machine learning methods that learn language from large collections of data. Some of the problems she hopes to overcome related to acquiring knowledge, answering questions, recognizing and linking an entity, and "machine translation for low-resource languages." 

Later this month, Nakashole is an invited speaker at the first annual meeting of the Women and Underrepresented Minorities in Natural Language Processing (WiNLP 2017). The July 30 meeting will take place in Vancouver, Canada, where it's co-located with annual meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics. The CSE professor recently got word that her paper has been accepted to the Conference on Empirical Methods on Natural Language Processing (EMNLP 2017), which takes place September 7-11 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Nakashole isn't the only Jacobs School of Engineering faculty member talking up real science at Comic-Con. NanoEngineering professor Darren Lipomi and grad students Jeanne Lemaster and Chava Angell will discuss the use of nanotechnology in popular science fiction -- comparing how nanotech is portrayed to cutting-edge research applications in university labs. Also on the panel will be UCSD chemical engineering alumna Robin Ihnfeldt, who works for General Engineering & Research LLC. Scientists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography will participate in a session titled "More Science in Your Fiction with the League of Extraordinary Scientists and Engineers" on Sunday, July 23 (the final day of Comic-Con).