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New CMU Faculty Member Offers Crash Course in AI

Virginia Alvino YoungTuesday, August 20, 2019

New SCS faculty member Yonatan Bisk co-write the AI installment of the YouTube series Crash Course.

A new way to learn about artificial intelligence premiered on YouTube this month as part of Crash Course, a series of quick-paced, imaginative videos on a range of topics that's amassed hundreds of millions of views. The AI installment, covering everything from algorithmic bias to neural networks, was co-written by incoming CMU faculty member Yonatan Bisk.

"This is increasingly pervasive technology, so it's good to understand that all of these systems in your daily life are running AI under the hood," Bisk said.

Currently a post-doc at Microsoft Research, Bisk will join CMU's School of Computer Science in the fall of 2020. He co-wrote the AI series with Tim Weninger of Notre Dame, and Lana Yarosh of the University of Minnesota, and is the primary script writer on episodes about natural language processing, robotics and the future of AI. Other topics in the series include robotics in game playing, and the potentially problematic aspects of AI.

Many Crash Course viewers are young people who may or may not go on to work in computer science, but Bisk said that it's important for anyone reading the news or being impacted by AI-related government policies to understand the terminology.

"To most people, all AI things are a black box. Hopefully, if nothing else, this series provides viewers with a certain level of agency in terms of playing around in the space again, but also a certain realism about what the technology can actually do," Bisk said.

Unlike its predecessors, this installment of Crash Course includes hands-on labs. For some topics, supplementary videos will be provided that walk viewers through sample code they can downloaded to their own browser.

For Bisk, it's all about inclusion. By giving people sample code, "they can either literally reproduce what they just saw in the YouTube video, or they can experiment by changing data, learning algorithms and seeing what effect that has on model performance or predictions," he said. "The more you dig in, the more Python you'll need to know, but even beginners can get started and experiment."

The series includes 15 episodes of curriculum, and five episodes of hands-on labs, all of which are hosted by YouTube personality Jabril Ashe.

Crash Course is executive produced by brothers Hank and John Green with PBS Digital Studios. A 2017 installment on computer science was co-written by CMU Human-Computer Interaction Institute faculty members Amy Ogan and Chris Harrison.

For More Information

Byron Spice | 412-268-9068 |<br>Virginia Alvino Young | 412-268-8356 |