Aug 24 • 1HR 33M

Terry Winograd: AI, HCI, Language, and Cognition

On the early years of AI research, understanding language and cognition, design and human-centeredness, and politics as a technologist.

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daniel bashir
Interviews with various people who research, build, or use AI, including academics, engineers, artists, entrepreneurs, and more.
Episode details

In episode 87 of The Gradient Podcast, Daniel Bashir speaks to Professor Terry Winograd.

Professor Winograd is Professor Emeritus of Computer Science at Stanford University. His research focuses on human-computer interaction design and the design of technologies for development. He founded the Stanford Human-Computer Interaction Group, where he directed the teaching programs and HCI research. He is also a founding faculty member of the Stanford and a founding member and past president of Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility.

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  • (00:00) Intro

  • (03:00) Professor Winograd’s background

    • (05:10) At the MIT AI Lab

  • (05:45) The atmosphere in the MIT AI Lab, Minsky/Chomsky debates

    • (06:20) Blue-sky research, government funding for academic research

  • (10:10) Isolation and collaboration between research groups

    • (11:45) Phases in the development of ideas and how cross-disciplinary work fits in

  • (12:26) SHRDLU and the MIT AI Lab’s intellectual roots

  • (17:20) Early responses to SHRDLU: Minsky, Dreyfus, others

  • (20:55) How Prof. Winograd’s thinking about AI’s abilities and limitations evolved

    • (22:25) How this relates to current AI systems and discussions of intelligence

  • (23:47) Repetitive debates in AI, semantics and grounding

  • (27:00) The concept of investment, care, trust in human communication vs machine communication

  • (28:53) Projecting human-ness onto AI systems and non-human things and what this means for society

  • (31:30) Time after leaving MIT in 1973, time at Xerox PARC, how Winograd’s thinking evolved during this time

  • (38:28) What Does It Mean to Understand Language? Speech acts, commitments, and the grounding of language

  • (42:40) Reification of representations in science and ML

  • (46:15) LLMs, their training processes, and their behavior

  • (49:40) How do we coexist with systems that we don’t understand?

  • (51:20) Progress narratives in AI and human agency

  • (53:30) Transitioning to intelligence augmentation, founding the Stanford HCI group and, advising Larry Page and Sergey Brin

  • (1:01:25) Chatbots and how we consume information

  • (1:06:52) Evolutions in journalism, progress in trust for modern AI systems

    • (1:09:18) Shifts in the social contract, from institutions to personalities

  • (1:12:05) AI and HCI in recent years

  • (1:17:05) Philosophy of design and the

  • (1:21:20) Designing AI systems for people

  • (1:25:10) Prof. Winograd’s perspective on watermarking for detecting GPT outputs

  • (1:25:55) The politics of being a technologist

  • (1:30:10) Echos of the past in AI regulation and competition and learning from history

  • (1:32:34) Outro