Filling the AI gap: languages and the humanities are central to the future of AI — this Berkeley group is broadening that conversation

January 18, 2024

15pm. Location TBDOn February 28, the Berkeley Language Center and the Language and AI working group at the Townsend Center for the Humanities will be hosting a half-day conference Language and AI: Generating Interdisciplinary Connections and Possibilities(link is external). The conference, conceived and launched by Emily Hellmich and Kimberly Vinall, of the Berkeley Language Center, as well as Kayla van Kooten, a graduate student in the Department of German, intends to bring together perspectives from research, industry, and theory in order to explore how language/culture learning intersect with AI. 

For Kayla, the inspiration for the conference developed out of frustration that there wasn't broader collaboration happening between language/humanities students and STEM-based students. She’s hoping that this first event will be a calling card for collaboration since it's hard to know what research is happening across such a large campus.

“I started grad school at Berkeley wanting to explore the connection between technology and language. So many people I knew from my undergrad who studied languages eventually went on to work in tech, doing things like programming Alexa or training Google Translate.” Kayla said, “At Berkeley, I see all these cool events happening on campus, but they're all just STEM people talking about STEM things. If there is an inclusion of humanities, so far, it’s only been in conversations about AI and ethics, but not around language, which is proving in all fields to be at the heart of AI. I want to see more discussions about the role of language in large language models, and connect with folks across Berkeley so we can collaborate and utilize each other's strengths.” 

The conference features a number of perspectives. Featured speakers include David Bamman, Associate Professor, School of Information; Timothy Tangherlini, Professor, Department of Scandinavian; and Brock Imel, French PhD, NLP Manager and Prompt Engineer at Writer, among other panelists. The introduction will be given by UC Berkeley Chief Technology Officer William Allison, who just launched the UC Berkeley AI Community.

Division of Arts & Humanities