October 27, 2023

Fei-Fei Li Is The AI Pioneer Urging “Moonshot” Funding For Public Sector AI Research

Fei-Fei Li

Fei-Fei Li, the Stanford professor dubbed the “godmother of AI,” recently urged President Biden to aggressively fund more AI research and public projects.

Unlike many of her industry peers, Li does not fear AI’s existential risks. Instead, she told Bloomberg it’s better to address the issues right here and right now before they escalate. 

The ‘godmother’ of AI 

Fei-Fei Li is a computer scientist, AI Researcher, professor at Stanford University, and Author of “The Worlds I See.”

After moving from China to New Jersey at the age of 15, she majored in physics but also studied computer science and engineering as an undergraduate at Princeton University.

Li then pursued graduate studies before beginning her career in computer science.

In 2006, she made AI history when she released the academic project ImageNet – a visual database of over 15 million images helping computers “see” the way humans do – which opened the door for AI development. 

Li joined Stanford University in 2009 and, from 2013 to 2018, served as the director of Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab (SAIL).

Joining Google Cloud as Chief Scientist of AI in 2018, Li and her team focused on democratizing AI technology and lowering the barrier to entrance to businesses and developers.

However, Li, who has returned as a professor at Stanford and has been called the “godmother” of AI, has concerns that the next generation of researchers in her field are constrained due to funding.

Invest in AI like we invest in NASA 

Li told Bloomberg that only a few universities in America today can train the ChatGPT model.

“We do not have the computer resources, we do not have the data, and more and more of our talent is going into the private sector,” she said.

While the private sector has a healthy role to play in AI development, the public also deserves to play a part in shaping a technology that has the potential to help cure diseases and mitigate climate change, Li said.

Meeting with President Joe Biden in June, Li urged the US to take a “moonshot mentality” in aggressively funding more AI research and public projects.

In the panel discussion, the panel of AI leaders from Stanford Human-Centered AI (HAI)  told Biden now is America’s moonshot moment for AI.

Read: AI ‘Godfather’ Warns Of Better Form Of Intelligence As He Quits Google, But Black Women Said It First

They argued it is time for the government to invest in AI as it has with NASA, and we must urgently adopt a mindset toward ensuring America leads to unlock AI’s vast potential.

To correct the imbalance, the panel stated we must ensure that more scientists have access to conduct AI research.

They compared the US and the UK proposals for a public sector research cloud, with the UK’s five times higher.

Addressing AI’s immediate risks

The Stanford HAI panel also expressed concerns about the rise of deep fakes, manipulation of reality that poses a real near-term threat, and a need for careful regulation.

Several prominent tech leaders recently raised concerns about AI surpassing humans. However, Li disagreed that this was the biggest risk facing today’s society with AI.

“There might be some harm, but you don’t go start talking about the vast scenario,” she said. “Instead, you address the safety issue right here and then because that’s very immediate.”

Li told Bloomberg that Biden was very thoughtful during their conversation.

Sara Keenan

Tech Reporter at POCIT. Following her master's degree in journalism, Sara cultivated a deep passion for writing and driving positive change for Black and Brown individuals across all areas of life. This passion expanded to include the experiences of Black and Brown people in tech thanks to her internship experience as an editorial assistant at a tech startup.