Machine minds, human minds
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Katie Roberts, my sister, works as a research scientist at BBN Technologies, a subsidiary of Raytheon, the defense contractor, in Boston Massachusetts. BBN, incidentally, was selected by ARPA in 1968 to create the ARPAnet—the precursor to the internet we know today. Another little-known fact is that it created the first person-to-person network email in 1971 and the use of the “@“ symbol in email addresses.
Today we speak about a wide variety of topics, but focus the first half of our conversation on teaching machines to produce text from speech, otherwise known as automatic speech recognition. What’s crazy is that Katie develops machine learning models every day, but she hails from an entirely nontechnical background. She studied Italian and linguistics at the University of Southern California. We discuss her transition into computational linguistics through a masters at Tulane University and a few her speech recognition projects, one of which included analyzing phone calls from inmates at Rikers Island prison.
In the second half, we get into a very candid discussion of mental health, particularly as it relates to food and body image. Katie is forthcoming about own experience with an eating disorder.
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