Meet the next generation of AI superstars

This story originally appeared in The Algorithm, our weekly newsletter on AI. To get stories like this in your inbox first, sign up here. So smart! So talented! This week I’m pleased to introduce you to a new crop of bright minds working on some of the most challenging problems in AI and beyond. You…
Meet the next generation of AI superstars

We’ve previously highlighted some of the most promising people in tech before they became household names. In 2002, the list included two young innovators named Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google. A 23-year-old Mark Zuckerberg was on the list in 2007. In 2008 we featured Andrew Ng, who wrote an excellent essay for us this yea sharing his tips for aspiring innovators on trying, failing, and the future of AI. 

This year we’ve seen tech companies racing to release their hottest new AI systems, and often neglecting safety and ethics. The AI scientists on this year’s innovators list are more aware than ever of the harm the technology can pose, and are determined to fix it. To do that, they’re pioneering new methods that are helping to shift the way the AI industry thinks about safety. 

Sharon Li, pictured above and our Innovator of the Year, is an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She created a remarkable AI safety feature called out-of-distribution detection. This feature helps AI models determine if they should abstain from action when faced with something they weren’t trained on. This is crucial as AI systems are rolled out from the lab and encounter new situations in the messy real world.

Irene Solaiman, global public policy director at Hugging Face, developed an approach that calls for tech companies to release new models in phases, allowing more time to test them for failures and build in guardrails.  

Many of our innovators are working to fight climate change. I was delighted to see so many people on the list using their skills in AI to tackle the biggest problem facing humanity, either by helping the AI community track and lower its emissions or by using AI to mitigate emissions in highly polluting industries.

Sasha Luccioni, an AI researcher at startup Hugging Face, has developed a better way for tech companies to estimate and measure the carbon footprint of AI language models. 

Catherine De Wolf of ETH Zurich is using AI to help reduce emissions and the waste of materials in the construction industry. 

Alhussein Fawzi of DeepMind developed game-playing AI to speed up fundamental computations, which helps to cut costs and save energy on devices.