Carnegie Mellon University
January 17, 2018

CMU Experts Lead Conversations at World Economic Forum

By Laura Kelly

World Economic Forum 2018

contingent of Carnegie Mellon University faculty, led by Interim President Farnam Jahanian, engaged in conversations about how big data and artificial intelligence are changing the world at the 2018 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland last week.

This year's theme, "Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World," aimed to rededicate international leaders from across industries and disciplines to develop a shared narrative to improve the world.

"Carnegie Mellon is proud to have demonstrated our distinct expertise at the nexus of technology, business and human life at the World Economic Forum in Davos this year," Jahanian said. "Our outstanding faculty presenters and panelists showed the global community that we not only pursue solutions to the world's most critical challenges, but we are also passionately committed to fostering access and broad societal inclusion in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a theme of this year's events."

Among those innovators and scholars were faculty members Rita Singh, Marios Savvides and Jean Yang, who collaborated for an IdeasLab presentation, "Ultra-Biometrics and Cybersecurity with Carnegie Mellon University."

Singh, an associate research professor in the Machine Learning for Signal Processing Group, discussed her research, which allows for the pinpointing of people and insights into their biological makeup and surroundings through voice recognition.

Savvides, director of CMU's CyLab Biometrics Center, shared his research in advanced facial recognition technology, including iris detection.

Jean Yang, an assistant professor in the School of Computer Science, shared her research in encoding privacy frameworks and how to make them accessible to all. One of the pillars of her research that was discussed during the IdeasLabs was increasing security.

"Software is running more and more of our lives," Yang said. "It's deciding everything from where we eat to who we date to what disease we get diagnosed with to how it gets treated."

Randy Sargent, senior systems scientist at CMU, sat on several panels focusing on pollution, biodiversity loss, global inequality, ending modern slavery, and historical trends and emerging geographic patterns behind the world's pressing challenges.

Illah Nourbakhsh, a professor in the Robotics Institute at CMU, discussed how to meet the needs of all within a growing global trade, geospatial technology, autonomous drones, and how to address global hunger and food security as a panelist at the Forum. Former Vice President Al Gore delivered the closing remarks of the session.

Again this year, the CREATE Lab at the Robotics Institute's billboard-sized EarthTime display was a popular draw among Forum attendees.

Justine Cassell, a professor in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute, gave solo presentations, "Governing Advanced Technologies: Machine Learning" and "Global Tech, Local Solutions: Artificial Intelligence." In "Machine Learning," Cassell addressed how machine learning will soon be used everywhere and discussed what first principles should shape its governance. In "Artificial Intelligence," closing the gaps in access to information and smart algorithms were discussed.

In addition to IdeasLab, Singh, Savvides and Yang delivered solo presentations throughout the conference.

Formal talks are only a part of the Davos experience. Participants said informal interactions are an important part such as an extended conversation between CMU Trustee and CEO of Cognizant Francisco D'Souza, President Jahanian and musician

CMU also hosted a reception attended by many Davos participants including U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta.

This story was updated on Jan. 29.