At its core, AI is versatile and creative
Guest post by Ananya Karthik, Stanford AI4ALL ’16 (formerly SAILORS)
AI4ALL Editor’s note: Meet Ananya Karthik, a 2016 Stanford AI4ALL (formerly SAILORS) alumna who, along with Stanford AI4ALL alumnae Isha Puri and Nandita Naik, started creAIte. creAIte introduces middle school and high school girls to AI through “neural art.” Below, Ananya explains how creAIte is helping her to share her view of AI as a creative tool with people in her community.
I remember the day, early in the Stanford AI4ALL program last year, on which we all received these awesome Stanford AI4ALL t-shirts. On the front, the Stanford AI4ALL motto was written: “AI will change the world. Who will change AI?” At that moment, I felt excited, just like all the other girls, to wear my new t-shirt, but I don’t think I fully understood the meaning of that catchy mantra until after the program. The motto meant so much more to me once I gained an understanding of the enormous implications of AI technology and of my potential to contribute to AI’s revolutionary impact on society.
At Stanford AI4ALL, through the varied research project topics, daily lectures by AI professors in fields ranging from computational genomics to aeronautics to computational sustainability, and demos of cutting-edge technology such as haptics and self-driving cars, I realized how amazingly diverse AI’s applications are and how creativity plays an essential role in spurring technological innovation. I think that even though each girl in my Stanford AI4ALL year arrived at the program with a different level of CS and AI knowledge, we all left with an appreciation of the versatility and creativity at the core of AI.
You don’t have to be an AI expert to know that we, in this day and age, are in the middle of something almost magical, infinitely creative, and beautifully applicable in a variety of settings.
I wanted to bring this understanding of AI as fundamentally creative and versatile to girls of all CS and AI levels in my community. About six months after I attended Stanford AI4ALL, I co-founded creAIte, an outreach initiative that inspires girls in CS and introduces them to the fascinating world of AI through neural art. The exciting confluence of AI and art, neural art is the generation or modification of artwork using machine learning algorithms. A popular form of neural art is style transfer, in which the style of one image or artistic piece is applied to the content of another. The creAIte team, I and two other Stanford AI4ALL 2016 alumnae, Nandita Naik and Isha Puri, organized a free two-day neural art workshop (July 22–23, 2017) for middle-school and high-school girls. We opened our event to all girls in this age range, regardless of their previous programming experience.
We started Day 1 of our workshop with a single question: “What can happen when art interacts with technology?” Launching off from that central inquiry, our students went on to learn AI basics and machine learning concepts such as training, prediction, linear regression, and neural networks. In preparation for our hands-on activity, we conducted an introductory Python programming tutorial that covered CS fundamentals like loops, conditionals, and data structures. Our students then set out to write some Python code for AI elements in a handwriting recognition program to explore the concept of computer vision, a key component of neural art.
On Day 2, we invited two awesome women in tech to present to our students, who engaged with the guest speakers to examine the definition of art and the role of emotions in AI. After learning about the intuition behind neural art, the students played with tools such as Deep Dream Generator and DeepArt.io to create their own neural art, which they then showcased to friends and family in our creAIte neural art exhibition! To witness the excitement and enthusiasm on the girls’ faces as they proudly displayed their art pieces was extremely rewarding, and we were so happy to see that 100% of our students stated in an evaluation form that the workshop made them feel that girls can accomplish amazing tasks in CS and AI.
Our students had gained the confidence that women are, and will continue to be, leaders in AI who can make important breakthroughs in the field.
By exploring the combination of AI and art in our creAIte neural art workshop, we emphasized the diversity in AI’s applications and the creative thinking required to propel any technological innovation, thus defying a common perception in young students that CS is just something executed inside black boxes. Rather, we directed our students to think outside of the box (and the more colorful, the better!).
Stanford AI4ALL opened my eyes to how incredibly versatile and essentially artistic AI is, and my experience at Stanford AI4ALL was definitely an inspiration for me to co-found and direct creAIte. The Stanford AI4ALL and AI4ALL community reflect my favorite parts about AI — its diversity and creativity — and as I continue to work on expanding creAIte and organizing unique events for girls, I am grateful to have received the opportunity to be part of such an amazing group of people.
Ananya Karthik is a rising junior at Saint Francis High School in Mountain View, CA, and a 2016 Stanford AI4ALL alumna. As the co-founder of creAIte, she and her teammates organized the first AI+Art workshop for girls. Ananya was a 2017 NCWIT Aspirations in Computing Affiliate Award Recipient, and she enjoys mentoring middle-school girls through the Girls Who Code program. She has participated in scientific research since middle school; recently, she worked on developing Python code for applications in astronomy. When not doing something STEM-related, Ananya enjoys creating art, writing, rock climbing, and dancing.