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Dr Kobi Leins - Collaboration and Videos by Vanialla Bear Films
Dr Kobi Leins - Collaboration and Videos

Linguistics, Automated Systems, & the Power of AI, with Emily M. Bender

June 17, 2024
- Dr Kobi Leins, host, AIEI Board of Advisors; King's College London
- Emily M. Bender, guest, Computational Linguistics Laboratory, University of Washington
Carnegie Council Podcasts
Artificial Intelligence & Equality Initiative

In this AI & Equality podcast, guest host and AIEI board advisor Dr. Kobi Leins is joined by University of Washington’s Professor Emily Bender for a discussion on systems, power, and how we are changing the world, one technological decision at a time. With a deep expertise in language and computers, Bender brings her perspective on how language and systems are being perceived and used—and changing us through automated systems and AI.

Why do words and linguistics matter when we are thinking about these emerging technologies? How can we more thoughtfully automate the use of AI?

KOBI LEINS: As artificial intelligence (AI) continues to reshape narratives and paradigms, I am please to welcome Dr. Emily Bender, a professor of linguistics with deep knowledge and experience in multilingual prompt engineering. It is not that complicated, but we will explain it as we talk. A link to her incredible bio and body of work will be found in the transcript of this podcast as well as links to the topics that we discuss along the way.

Welcome, Emily. It is such an honor to have this conversation with you. The first question I want to ask you is about linguistics, which is not usually the framing for large language models (LLMs). How did you get into it and why?

EMILY BENDER: I got into linguistics because it is cool. I had not ever heard of linguistics before I got to university, but someone gave me the very wise advice in the summer before I started to look through the course catalog and just look at anything that sounded interesting. There was this class called “An Introduction to Language.” I circled it, and in my second term I was looking for a distribution credit, and that fulfilled one of them. I went, sure, I’ll give it a try, and I was hooked on the first day.

The funny thing is that the first day was actually about animal communication systems, like how do bees do their bee dance to indicate where the sources of pollen are and stuff like that, but even still this thinking about communication systems was exactly what I had always been interested in, but I did not know there was a whole field of study until I took that class.

All my degrees are in linguistics. I moved into computational linguistics sort of in grad school. My research was not computational, but I was doing research assistantship work on grammar engineering, which is basically getting computers to diagram sentences.

KOBI LEINS: Grammar engineering sounds like we are studying again now, but it must seem very old to you when people are talking about prompt engineering and other kinds of controlling or managing language.