Artificial Neural Networks and Deep Learning in Copenhagen and London

In Session 2: Artificial Neural Networks and Deep Learning, I’ve been exploring the mathematical concepts underlying machine learning models, beginning with their simplest structures and working toward an understanding of the applications that these technologies enable. We encounter the end products of machine learning models all the time: the predictive text on our messages and emails, facial recognition software on our phones, and the product recommendations on the websites we use all use machine learning.

From day one, our instructor Lucian reaffirmed our interest in these topics. We dove right into computational graph diagrams, quickly applying what we learned in lecture that morning to an assigned problem set. 

We work exclusively in Python, following a popular textbook titled Neural Networks and Deep Learning by Michael Nielsen. This is consistent with other introductory machine learning courses, so we had plenty of examples to reference when we needed to. 

Ultimately, I know I’ll leave this course with a much stronger understanding of how to build machine learning models from the ground up, adding certain optimization features as I go. This is an exciting skill to have after just the three weeks we spent in the classroom around Copenhagen!

On the second week, we visited London, England for five days of a thoughtfully planned Study Tour.  Some of the highlights of this trip were: 

We visited Bletchley Park outside of London where British codebreakers deciphered German Enigma code during the Second World War. The historical weight of this place was palpable, and I think our class enjoyed seeing the Bombe machines (which “cracked” German code by identifying the daily encryption keys used by the military) come together over time. You cannot doubt the historical significance of this museum! 

All of our group meals, but especially our first lunch at Maggie Jones’s – with 25 people, the “family-style” meals we enjoyed during this trip definitely helped our group bond and get to know each other. I don’t think I sat by the same two people twice during our group meals – we shuffled around quite a lot and I had some insightful conversations with students I might not otherwise have gotten to know.

At the Stratford Padel Club, we interacted with Deloitte’s new AI coaching assistants and technologies intended to bring the racket sport Padel to new communities. The general purpose of this visit was to see rapid prototyping processes and iterative models in practice: Deloitte’s generative AI program called Racketfusion (complete with several interactive AI Padel “coaching” language models with displays, a Padel-themed photo booth with its own AI-assisted image manipulator and more) came together in just a few short months! We saw that with a strong team of bright and skilled people, building a similarly impactful project was within reach.

The last day of our academic programming, we were introduced to a sociologist at City College – London who specializes in human-computer interaction. He briefed us on misinformation perpetuated by media buzz about artificial intelligence, arguing that the most dangerous threats caused by AI are actually information bias and harm done to offshore workers responsible for much of the work that goes into developing AI technologies. I can speak to the importance of this visit as it taught me some grim realities of modern technology as its used by big companies. Ultimately, we left with a restored sense of responsibility for the future generations of AI development.

While in London with DIS, we couldn’t miss the ABBA Voyage concert at ABBA Theater. This was truly spectacular: a fully holographic concert – one that was so well produced that if it hadn’t been advertised as holographic, you couldn’t tell that the band weren’t really on stage. The nuanced movements and dances of the band looked realistic! 

Photo credit goes to our instructor, Lucian

This course completely changed how I feel toward computer science. I arrived feeling a little intimidated and will leave feeling confident, excited for new opportunities to work on team projects, and entirely satisfied with my experience in this DIS course. 

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