Unique Reflections on AI’s Leap | SXSW EDU 2024

AI's Leap: Shaping Tailored Learning - SXSW EDU 2024 - Photo by Miguel Esparza

In the 14 years we’ve been hosting the SXSW EDU Conference & Festival, we’ve seen many trends and topics have their moment as the next new and exciting opportunity for learning. However, few compare to the sustained energy around artificial intelligence since the launch of ChatGPT. Though sessions addressing AI and its role in learning consisted of a portion of the program at SXSW EDU 2024 this past March, these sessions tended to have some of the biggest turnouts of the event. 

Beth Rudden, the CEO and Chairwoman of Bast AI, took a very thoughtful approach to the topic of AI in education in both an accessible and deeply nuanced way in her Featured Session AI’s Leap: Shaping Tailored Learning, which is well worth watching in full as she rolls her thinking out in three acts. The depth of Beth’s reflections is hard to synthesize, but here are a few key learnings to reflect on.

AI is a Mirror

A theme throughout Beth’s talk is that AI is a mirror. It is only as good as or capable of reflecting the quality of its inputs, so understanding the data set used to train the AI will illuminate the bias of what is being generated. As humans, we are drawn to details that confirm our existing beliefs, so Beth’s prescription to us all is to “sanitize your inputs.” 

Ancestral Intelligence 

Later in her talk, Beth addresses generational collaboration through what she called ancestral intelligence. 

“We need to think differently about how we're interacting with our older generations. We need to understand ancestral intelligence and it's a term that I'm playing around with because artificial intelligence implies that something is created out of nothing. That artificial intelligence is created out of something that didn't exist before. It's artificial. And that's not true. Artificial intelligence is totally based on the data sets that are used to create the training data and to create the models and to create all of it, and that's our ancestral intelligence.”

Beth Rudden
CEO & Chairwoman, Bast AI

Small Data Sets

The next generation of AI will be created with small, high-quality data sets. In order to accomplish tailored use cases for AI, well-ordered data, even in small volumes, can have a big impact. According to Beth, “We don’t need large data sets harvested without consent.”

One of the biggest takeaways from Beth throughout her talk is what she started by addressing, “You all belong in AI. You all should be here.” In her review, to have a representative sample of humanity in AI, we need 1.6 billion people engaging with it. 

Watch the full Featured Session here and draw your own conclusions about the promise of AI.

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Photo by Miguel Esparza

By Greg Rosenbaum