AIGrrls: The Future of Technology is Actually Very Human

Davar Ardalan
Dec 18, 2019 · 5 min read
AIGrrls gathered at Spaces in Rosslyn on Tuesday December 17, 2019

Ahead of the holidays, data scientists, entrepreneurs, journalists, civic tech leaders, and a conversational AI named Sina spent last night mixing and musing at Spaces in Arlington, Virginia. The thought-provoking conversations were part of AIGrrls, a networking event focusing on making the future of artificial intelligence more inclusive.

Kymberlee Hill is co-Founder and CEO of Curl IQ and lives at the intersection of information design, technology, and interactive storytelling. Her startup is all about hair recognition technology — that simplifies, automates, and personalizes the discovery experience for women with textured hair and the brands that cater to them. She has her MBA from Harvard Business School and her BA in Computer Science from Howard University. Kymberlee talked about her startup and the importance of using technology to solve problems for those who are underrepresented.

Kymberlee Hill, co-Founder and CEO of Curl IQ addressing AIGrrls.

We were welcomed to Spaces by Jessica Wherry of Tential IT. As one of the sponsors, Jessica talked about the importance of giving space to women of all backgrounds to come together and talk about emerging technologies and ways to inform it. Tential is a talent solutions group invested in identifying and retaining quality talent in Software Engineering and Data. Jessica noted that in a very data-driven world, Tential prides themselves in building long term relationships and remaining people-driven.

Jennifer Bonine, the CEO of is also a sponsor of AIGrrls. PinkLion is a breakout AI company that brings AI to the world’s app teams. They not only deliver AI integration with a human engagement model but also educate teams on solving challenges with an AI-first strategy. Jennifer talked about the importance of ensuring we embrace and support women and create inclusion of all cultures as we implement and humanize AI solutions.

Many of the speakers talked about the need for inclusive datasets and investment in AI by and for women of color. Others talked about the need for recognition systems that are trained on nuanced and complex emotions. There was a sentiment that the future of technology is actually very human.

Megan Herceg is a computational biology doctoral student in the Shehu Lab at George Mason University. She briefed us on her work that focuses on the structural information contained in protein contacts and how deep learning can leverage that information to recreate protein structures.

Technology reporter Tajha Chappellet-Lanier of FedScoop talked about facial recognition and the need to create a diverse forum for public discussion of its role in society. Tajha previously worked for DC, NPR, and USA Today.

AIGrrls attendees express how AI can be applied in 2020

For data scientist Meredith Pollock, it’s important for AI to evolve into a powerful tool to help humans sift through all the clutter of life that tends to bombard us day to day. She notes that future inclusive AI can help us focus on what’s important in life. Meredith has built data models that detect fraud, waste, and abuse for clients in a range of industries including financial services, federal government, e-commerce, telecommunications as well as news & broadcasting.

Swathi Young is the Founder & Chief Digital Strategist at TechNotch Solutions. Swathi talked about her passion for using cutting-edge AI technologies to increase the performance of organizations. She leads several meetups focusing on women and STEM.

Davar Ardalan and Kee Malesky of IVOW AI, demonstrating Sina the AI Storyteller, via Google Assistant

The lightning talks ended with stories from an AI. Sina (SEE-nah) is being designed as an AI storyteller by the journalists and developers at IVOW, our early stage startup developing cultural intelligence for AI. Although Sina is currently a demo on Google Assistant and our website, she held her own and spoke to us about what she wants for Christmas — more data! — and even shared a story about a legendary woman in science.

“Katherine Johnson is a highly decorated mathematician whose calculations of orbital mechanics were critical to the success of the American spaceflight program, including the Apollo missions and the space shuttle. Katherine Johnson was also a computer pioneer who spent several decades working as a NASA scientist. Born in 1918, she is currently 101 years old and lives in Hampton, Virginia,” Sina told us.

In demonstrating Sina, Kee Malesky (Director of Information at IVOW) and I talked about the development of Sina’s personality and character as a conversational AI. We have created Sina to be “born” in the 1950s, at a time when consumerism took off in America — when McDonalds and Disneyland launched and more and more Americans owned cars; Elvis Presley ruled; Coca-Cola cans were the fad; Legos were invented in Denmark and Velcro in Switzerland. In many ways, consumerism and globalization brought changing cultural norms and shifted the way people behave. We want Sina to be somewhat like a child — curious and open to the wonders of the world — but also to be mature, to have observed and learned about many things.

I talked about how the move from traditional lifestyles presented huge challenges for human and economic development over time. We have seen profound, unprecedented change in every aspect of society, from politics and economics to science and culture, affecting humans everywhere. As we approach 2020, there is a growing need for an AI storyteller like Sina to deep-learn cultural understanding and embody a respect for traditional knowledge.

AIGrrls is a networking initiative created by former NPR journalist Davar Ardalan, founder of IVOW AI, and AI-by-design leader Nina Bianchi. To get involved — or to sponsor us — please email

Thanks to our amazing sponsors, Tential IT, and IVOW AI for making this event possible! The next AIGrrls is on Tuesday, January 21 at Spaces in Rosslyn, VA. RSVP here.

Davar Ardalan

Written by

IVOW Founder and Storyteller in Chief

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