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The Biggest Moments of TIME’s Impact Dinner: Extraordinary Women Shaping the Future of AI

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More than 60 guests—including activists, researchers, policy shapers, and technologists—gathered at the St. Regis San Francisco on Thursday night for a TIME100 Impact Dinner honoring the extraordinary women shaping the future of artificial intelligence.

A number of the guests had recently been recognized as leaders in the field by their inclusion in the inaugural TIME100 AI list, which TIME editor in chief Sam Jacobs described as “a map of the relationships and power centers driving the development of AI.”

TIME CEO Jess Sibley began the evening by speaking further about the philosophy behind the TIME100 AI list. “We looked at the dangers, the perils, but also the power and the progress. We identified 100 people that weren’t just Sam Altman, and Reid Hoffman, and Elon Musk, but designers and regulators and researchers. You’re going to hear from several of them this evening.”

Here are some of the biggest moments of the night.

Fei-Fei Li reiterates how AI isn’t just for businesses

In a June meeting with President Biden, Stanford professor Fei-Fei Li highlighted the need for investment in public-sector AI development and called for a “moonshot mentality” in addressing this unmet potential.

In her toast, Li reiterated this need, pointing out that in 2022, 32 significant machine learning  models were produced in industry, whereas only three were trained in academia.

However, Li said she was encouraged by recent policy developments. “Our policymakers are starting to engage,” she said. “I’ve never gotten this many phone calls from Washington D.C.”

Anna Makanju is inspired by how people are using AI

Anna Makanju, vice president of global affairs at prominent AI company OpenAI, expressed gratitude for being able to contribute to “work on something where I can feel genuine optimism.”

Makanju said that she isn’t a natural optimist, having been raised in the USSR. And the world’s current state of affairs makes it even harder to be positive. But she’s heartened by the many personal stories she’s heard of people who have been empowered by AI—from a blind colleague who uses GPT-4 to navigate the world to an AI-powered app that helps people in India overcome language barriers to access public services to a ChatGPT user who was able to identify her son’s rare illness after years of consulting different doctors.

“It’s not just the technology we’re building—but the ways that it enables us to have access to things that were really previously unimaginable to a lot of people—that makes me so hopeful,” she said. “As well of course being in a room with all of these amazing women.”

Nancy Xu calls for a change of narrative

Nancy Xu, founder and CEO of AI-powered recruiting company Moonhub, urged her fellow guests to develop and adopt AI in ways that create opportunities for people rather than taking opportunities away.

“A lot of people think AI is this force that will take away their jobs, and it scares them,” she said. “We have a chance at changing the narrative here—to create a world where people see AI as an engine for opportunity for them, to help them find access to better opportunities, to help them find better jobs, to help them find more fulfilling work.”

Sneha Revanur wants youth to be at the table

In 2020, in response to California’s Proposition 25, which aimed to replace cash bail with pretrial detention determined by an algorithmic risk assessment, Sneha Revanur founded Encode Justice, a youth-led nonprofit focused on AI’s impacts.

Now, the 18-year old Revanur, who this summer was invited to attend a roundtable discussion on AI hosted by Vice President Kamala Harris, is seeing broader participation in debates over AI, which she said used to be limited to “people with a very specific set of credentials—like a PhD in computer science or years spent serving on the Hill.”

“The technology that we’re building today, at breakneck speed, will shape the world my generation inherits tomorrow,” she said. “My peers and I are determined to do more than just inherit that world. We’re actively co-creating it.”

Kimberly Bryant stresses human agency in shaping the AI revolution

Kimberly Bryant, founder of education nonprofit Black Girls Code, used her toast to make a call to action, stressing society’s collective responsibility to “ensure that [AI] benefits all, especially our marginalized communities.”

“Here’s the thing: we have the power to shape this revolution,” she said. “We can actively work towards identifying and mitigating biases baked into AI algorithms. We can demand transparency and accountability in AI development.”

Sarah Conley Odenkirk draws lessons from the crypto rush

Many have made comparisons between cryptographic technologies, such as NFTs, and AI, as both technologies burst rapidly onto the scene and have been the subject of much breathless hype. But there are important differences between the two, said Sarah Conley Odenkirk, partner and co-head of the art law practice group at Cowan DeBaets Abrahams & Sheppard LLP. Still, she said, those thinking about the impact of AI on the arts can draw lessons from the crypto rush—which crashed spectacularly, leaving many investors out of pocket—including taking “a less speculative and more deliberate approach.”

Odenkirk listed the many issues that require consideration: “What it means to create, what it means to sustainably evolve, and how we can build the best framework supporting human-generated creative expression, which ultimately forms the backbone of our humanity.”

“Rather than simply being awed by AI’s infinite potential for creative output or terrified by its equally infinite potential for destruction, we need to take the time to thoughtfully build guard rails and infrastructure that will not only protect existing human-generated creative expression, but carefully analyze and evaluate the nature and value of AI’s output,” said Odenkirk.

The TIME100 Impact Dinner: Extraordinary Women Shaping the Future of AI was presented by Meta.

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Write to Will Henshall at will.henshall@time.com