Geek of the Week

Geek of the Week: Allen Institute for AI researcher Daniel King already successful in quest to make world a greater place

Daniel King. (Photo courtesy of Daniel King)

Daniel King already landed a spot on a winning team when he was selected as a Predoctoral Young Investigator at the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence. On Friday, his team actually won a competition in New York which allowed King and others to show off the skills they’re putting to use every day in Seattle.

King, a 22-year-old Seattle native and recent Harvey Mudd College computer science grad, and his AI2 teammates won the top prize in the Rich Context Competition from New York University’s Coleridge Initiative. The goal, according to the contest description, was to “develop and identify the best text analysis and machine learning techniques to discover relationships between data sets, researchers, publications, research methods, and fields” and to “use the results to create a rich context for empirical research — and build new metrics to describe data use.”

King was joined by Waleed Ammar, Suchin Gururangan, Christine Betts, Iz Beltagy, and Madeleine van Zuylen, whom he referred to as a group of research scientists, predoctoral young investigators, interns, and data analysts from AI2, on the Semantic Scholar and AllenNLP teams.

A $20,000 stipend was awarded to the winning team to support the team’s work to refine its algorithm and to help it provide technical guidance as the competition sponsor staff integrate the work into the broader project.

Here’s a video showing King presenting for AI2:

King has previously interned at Microsoft, starting at software giant the summer after graduating high school. He also interned at Facebook.

“I am excited about applying artificial intelligence and technology to make the world a better, more equitable place,” he said.

Away from work he enjoys playing soccer and hiking.

Learn more about this week’s Geek of the Week, Daniel King:

What do you do, and why do you do it? I do artificial intelligence research on the Semantic Scholar team at AI2. I do it because technology plays a huge role in our society, and it is our job to ensure that it is used for the benefit of all humanity. Hopefully as my career develops I can help us collectively take steps toward this goal.

What’s the single most important thing people should know about your field? AI isn’t so different from other technologies. It’s not magic, and we need to worry about the impact it is having right now, not Skynet. It has the power to change the world, and the outcome depends on the humans that are creating, applying, and controlling the technology.

Where do you find your inspiration? From everyone around me who has a passion and shares it with the world.

What’s the one piece of technology you couldn’t live without, and why? My phone. I use it for news, podcasts, communication, entertainment, finances, and life would be much more challenging without it.

What’s your workspace like, and why does it work for you? My workspace is cluttered with papers and notes, and not much else besides my laptop and a monitor. A workspace with too much clutter causes me stress, but no clutter at all and it doesn’t feel like a workspace. Unfortunately I don’t have access to a picture at the moment, so here is a picture I took in Reykjavik, Iceland, on my birthday.

(Photo courtesy of Daniel King)

Your best tip or trick for managing everyday work and life. (Help us out, we need it.) Keep a clean email inbox. It is how I stay on top of things.

Mac, Windows or Linux? Mac for work, Windows for play.

Kirk, Picard, or Janeway? Kirk by default, I haven’t seen much Star Trek.

Transporter, Time Machine or Cloak of Invisibility? Transporter, to be able to visit friends and family without a plane flight would be incredible.

If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would … Find someone who knows how to run a company, find an education expert, and then start an education technology company and try to bring the power of AI to improving the quality of publicly accessible education. If everyone had access to a quality education, I believe the world would be a much better place, and I am not convinced that our current education system can scale to meet everyone’s needs without significant aid from technology.

I once waited in line for … A Rollie Fingers autograph at a minor league baseball game, only to have the line close just as I got to the front.

Your role models: My sister, because she pushes me to think more deeply about any and all societal issues, and she works incredibly hard to be successful at whatever she applies herself to.

Greatest game in history: Packers vs Seahwaks, 2014 NFC Championship game, or to interpret this question differently, bughouse chess.

Best gadget ever: The transistor.

First computer: A desktop running Windows XP in my parents’ basement.

Current phone: Pixel 2

Favorite app: Robinhood

Favorite cause: Mary’s Place.

Most important technology of 2019: Independent journalism, does that count as a technology?

Most important technology of 2021: Privacy oriented internet and social media.

Final words of advice for your fellow geeks: I don’t know that I’m at a stage of my life/career to be giving out advice, but I would encourage everyone to think actively about the impact of their work, particularly in the technology industry, and to push back if your company is, or people in your company are, doing something you consider to be wrong.

LinkedIn: Daniel King

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