Live + Virtual Keynotes
As a speaker, Tom has a unique ability to break down complex ideas into stories and concepts that everyone can understand. A true polymath, he leverages his diverse experience to spot trends and make connections across artificial intelligence, cognitive science, and design. His primary focus is Humanistic AI and the power of collective intelligence to effect positive changes in our culture and the planet that sustains us. Audiences leave Tom’s talks with their minds expanded, their assumptions challenged, and an optimistic view of where our minds and our technology can take us.
Superhuman Potential: The Promise of Humanistic AI
The landscape of AI today is as exciting as it is complex, fraught with unknowns and exponential potential. What is the proper role of AI in relation to humanity? How do we build planetary scale AI-driven systems that deliver outcomes we want while avoiding unintended consequences? In this thought-provoking talk, Tom leverages his decades in AI development and lays out a clear ethical choice. The key lies in aligning the objective of the machine with human values: programming AI to augment and collaborate with us for the betterment of humanity. Taking a philosophical and prescriptive approach, Tom describes real-world applications from his front-row seat as advisor to over a dozen companies at the forefront of humanistic AI applications. Offering both a rallying cry and a roadmap for the future, Tom shows the way to harness and direct this powerful, pervasive technology for good.
How to Build the Future: Practical Principles for Startup Founders
In 2010 Siri was purchased by Apple and remains central to the user experience of all Apple products. Today, Siri is used more than 25 billion times a month in over 30 countries around the world. But in late 2007 when Tom and his co-founders launched their fledgling startup, none of this was guaranteed. Why did top VC firms first invest in the company, even as the sky was falling in financial markets? Tom outlines four key factors that led to Siri’s success — factors that are essential to any successful startup. He shares insider details of Siri’s trajectory, while providing real-world examples from other companies, showing how attendees can put these principles into practice with their own ventures.
AI, Big Data, and Humanity: Risks and Opportunities
Artificial Intelligence, operating on big data, opens a world of possibilities to improve how we work, play, learn, and take care of ourselves. This talk offers a cautionary tale of AI and data leading to unforeseen negative outcomes when harnessed by some of the largest companies in the world, and how a new crop of startups are using AI in a new way to foster human health and well being. Examples of applications include health care, assistive care, and mental health – and recent work using AI to help with the COVID-19 pandemic. Drawing from his direct experience building planetary-scale AI and advising a new generation of Humanistic AI companies, Tom offers insights to entrepreneurs, investors, and policy makers navigating the high-stakes decisions of AI today.
Semantic Computing: It’s Actually Here. What Will You Do With It?
Semantic computing has now reached the technical threshold where machines can read and understand the facts in almost everything you read, and everything else you might read. And today audio and video can be transcribed routinely, so machines can also read and remember the content of our conversations and sources of entertainment. What applications does this new AI competence unlock? What happens when we augment our individual and collective memories with AI? Tom reveals the landscape of new possibilities and offers a peek over the horizon to what might be accomplished — and how things might go off course — with this exciting new capability.
The Generation That Will Save the Ocean
Earth’s ocean is in immediate peril from climate change, pollution, and unsustainable fishing. We have one generation left to save it. Who will be the people to change the attitudes and behavior of billions around the world? They are the next generation of scientists, engineers, artists, and activists who were born digital and raised social. What will they need to do to turn the tide? In this rousing talk, Tom applies his inventor’s mind for innovation with his entrepreneur’s penchant for leadership, and lays out a roadmap for how we can move our relationship to the ocean from exploitation by the few to stewardship by us all.
Colorful Lives: Photographic Stories from the Ocean
Experience the colorful lives of underwater animals through the lens of art photography. Learn about the surprising sex lives of famous animated fish, the bizarre mating habits of punk-rock nudibranchs, and the majestic grace of the largest fish in the ocean. See the adorable playfulness of sea lions up close, and then consider the message they have for us about our relationship to the ocean. Tom is in love with life in the ocean, and is privileged to travel around the world to dive in places where marine life still thrives. With his underwater photography and video, he hopes to bring back and share what he sees to create empathy and connection with the ocean.
Tom enjoys public speaking about topics that matter today, such as the impact of AI on society, what makes a successful startup, and how to save the ocean. In talks to conferences and private audiences, he offers insights from his experience in technology research, design, startups, and travel. He loves interactive Q&A, and can tailor presentations to the interests of any audience.
As an innovator, researcher, and serial startup entrepreneur, Tom gives audiences a front-row seat to what it means to envision the future, then set about building it. If you use Siri on your phone, learn from a threaded discussion on the Web, collaborate with colleagues in a virtual workspace, or use a computer to help you speak, it is likely that Tom helped invent it, influenced its development, or was designing an early version of it before it entered the mainstream. Many of the innovations Tom created or influenced are taken for granted today, woven into the pattern of our digitally mediated lives.
Tom has a knack for helping audiences make sense of the complex, and apply it to their own lives. He keeps his finger on the pulse of innovation as a sought-after Impact Advisor to over a dozen companies on the cutting edge of Humanistic AI development. As a result, all Tom’s talks have an immediacy and real-world connection to what’s happening now. Experiencing Tom’s infectious vision of the future is an antidote to pessimism.
As an accomplished photographer and videographer, Tom is able to create dynamic and informative virtual presentations, bringing his expertise and unique perspective into the world on demand. Both pre-recorded and live events feature Tom beaming in from his state-of-the-art home studio, with professional-grade audiovisual equipment and green-screen backdrops. Crisp, clear technology means Tom and the audience can focus on the conversations that matter: The relationship of AI to humanity, what makes a successful startup, and how to save our oceans.
Colorful Lives: Photographic Stories From the Ocean
Experience the colorful lives of underwater animals through the lens of art photography. Learn about the surprising sex lives of famous animated fish, the bizarre mating habits of punk-rock nudibranchs, and the majestic grace of the largest fish in the ocean. Witness the playfulness of sea lions up close, and then consider the messages they have for us about our relationship to the ocean.
Tom is in love with life in the ocean, and is privileged to travel around the world to dive in places where marine life still thrives. With his underwater photography and video, he hopes to bring back and share what he sees, to create empathy and connection with the ocean.
How AI Can Enhance Our Memory, Work, and Social Lives
How smart can our machines make us? In his talk at TED 2017, Tom introduces the idea of Humanistic AI that augments and collaborates with us instead of competing with or replacing us. He shares his vision for a future where AI helps us achieve superhuman performance in perception, creativity and cognitive function — from turbocharging our design skills to helping us remember everything we’ve ever read. The idea of an AI-powered personal memory also extends to relationships, with the machine helping us reflect on our interactions with people over time. The upside? “Every time a machine gets smarter, we all get smarter.”
What Can AI Do for Humanity?
In this talk to a gathering of over 1,000 AI practitioners, Tom showed how the misuse of AI by social media has led to over unprecedented addiction and harm to society. He gave a technical analysis of how the technology is involved and how it might be deployed differently to avoid unintended consequences. He then described several new areas in which Humanistic AI applications, applying the AI with different objectives, can produce intended consequences for human benefit, including health care, mental health care, augmentative communication, and memory enhancement. He has given versions of this talk to business leaders who are interested in double and triple bottom line governance and forging a new contact between technology and society.
A Guiding Philosophy for Artificial Intelligence Entrepreneurs and Investors
In this talk, Tom reviews key projects in his career and offers the principals on which they were chosen and factors that led to success. He describes a key insight he learned from inventor Doug Engelbart, the formulation of a guiding philosophy, which can help entrepreneurs, researchers, and investors make decisions in their careers.
The Role of AI in a Post-COVID Society
In this dynamic roundtable, Tom joined fellow AI experts including Gary Marcus (NYU professor and founder and CEO of Geometric Intelligence); Oren Etzioni (CEO of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence), and Yoon Kim (CTO for AI of SK Group).
Navigating the Startup Ecosystem
In 2010 Siri was purchased by Apple and remains central to the user experience of all Apple products. Today, Siri is used more than 25 billion times a month in over 30 countries around the world. But in late 2007 when Tom and his co-founders launched their fledgling startup, none of this was guaranteed. Why did top VC firms first invest in the company, even as the sky was falling in financial markets? In this virtual keynote, Tom outlines four key factors that led to Siri’s success — factors that are essential to any successful startup. He shares insider details of Siri’s trajectory, while providing real-world examples, showing how viewers can put these principles into practice with their own ventures.
What AI and Big Data Can Do for Humanity
In this keynote, Tom shares his insights into the power and potential of big data and AI, with examples of how things can go wrong — and the potential for doing things right. He reveals the role of AI within social media platforms and details how its misuse has led to over-optimization for profit and unintended consequences for humanity. To counter this concerning trend, Tom offers examples of AI that is optimized for human mental health and well being. Followed by an interview with John Markoff at the virtual TechFest conference.
Intelligence at the Interface: The Virtual Assistant Paradigm for Human Computer Interaction
BayCHI is the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the ACM Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction.
This talk explores the virtual assistant metaphor as an interaction paradigm, like mouse-and-menu or multi-touch. What does it enable? Who does it empower? What are the drivers of usability and utility? What makes it work and where can it falter? And how might the assistant metaphor serve us in a world of services powered by artificial intelligence?
The speaker led the team that designed Siri and the interaction paradigm it brought to the mainstream.
The Generation That Will Save the Ocean
This talk was aimed at high school students in Silicon Valley, calling on them to join in the fight to save the ocean.
Earth’s oceans are in immediate peril from climate change, pollution, and unsustainable fishing. We have one generation left to save them. Who will be the ones to change the attitudes and behaviors of billions around the world?
They are the next generation of scientists, engineers, artists, and activists who were born digital and raised social. What will they need to do to save our oceans? Tom applies his inventor’s mind for innovation with his entrepreneur’s penchant for leadership, and lays out a roadmap for how we can move our relationship to the ocean from exploitation by the few to stewardship by us all.
Big Think Small Screen: How Semantic Computing in the Cloud Will Revolutionize the Consumer Experience on the Phone
A week before Siri was released to the Apple app store, Tom gave a keynote address at the Web 3.0 conference, which was about intelligent applications on the web. In this forward-looking talk, he explains why intelligent apps like Siri were about to burst on the scene. Using the metaphor of the “perfect storm”, he explained how the “big think” of computing in the cloud combined with broadband connectivity to the new class of “small screen” computers (smartphones) would enable intelligence at the interface, and a whole new way for consumers to interact with the rapidly expanding universe of services on the web. He explains how Siri takes advantage of this moment in history, and relates to other vanguard technologies of the time including Yelp, Pandora, Shazam, Google Goggles, and Wolfram Alpha.
A journalist for Wired saw the talk and wrote this insightful piece: Web 3.0: Rosie, Jeeves & That Thing in Your Pocket
Siri: A Virtual Personal Assistant (2009)
In 2009 — a year before Siri was launched — Tom introduced Siri to a technical audience, laying out the key problems to be solved and the technologies involved. The talk includes an early demo of the working system, which had not yet been released to the public. A classic!
Intelligence at the Interface: Semantic Technology and the Consumer Internet Experience
This keynote set the stage for the idea of applying AI to the user interface, grounding it in the context of semantic computing and the work on collective intelligence. The Siri startup was still in stealth mode, only a few months old. It is interesting to see the revelation of the paradigm shift to come without showing the product being worked on. Also includes historical tidbits of Siri’s predecessor at SRI by co-founder Adam Cheyer.
Despite our Best Efforts, Ontologies are not the Hard Part
Cobblies: Mashups of the Future
Offers a vision of a framework for semantically enabled compositional applications called cobblies, the new mashups, based on geospatial data and the semantic web.
Ontologies, Web 2.0 and Beyond
Tom Gruber (2007). Ontologies, Web 2.0 and Beyond. Keynote presentation at the Ontology Summit 2007 – Ontology, Taxonomy, Folksonomy: Understanding the Distinctions, March 1, 2007.
Grande Challenges for Ontology Design
Why bother with ontology design, particularly when it involves the trouble of collaborating with other people and their peculiar ideas? How does one guide a design process with any kind of objective notion of a Good Result? I think that if we do not start from this question, we are wasting our time. Outside the context of some shared goals, even arguing about what “ontology is” is, at best, ironic.
In this session I will frame a discussion about ontology design, using the model of engineering design that has brought tremendous success to electronic and physical engineering disciplines, and to some extent software engineering. My goal for the session is to identify some important and practical problems with objective engineering requirements that can motivate and guide the work of this community.
Where the Social Web Meets the Semantic Web
The Semantic Web is an ecosystem of interactions among computer systems. The social web is an ecosystem of conversation among people. Both are enabled by conventions for layered services and data exchange. Both are driven by human-generated content and made scalable by machine-readable data. Yet there is a popular misconception that the two worlds are alternative, opposing ideologies about how the web ought to be. Folksonomy vs. ontology. Practical vs. formalistic. Humans vs. machines.
It is time to embrace a unified view. In this talk Tom outlines what he believes is the best shot we have of collective intelligence in our lifetimes: large, distributed human-computer systems. The best way to get there is to harness the “people power” of the Web with the techniques of the Semantic Web.
Avoiding the Travesty of the Commons
Presents ways to avoid the failure of user-contributed social web sites, including techniques for integrating structured and unstructured data.
TagOntology – A Way to Agree on the Semantics of Tagging Data
Presentation at Tag Camp, proposing an approach and straw man for defining and ontology that would enable the exchange of tag data and the building of tagging systems that can compositionally interact with other systems.
Helping Organizations Collaborate, Communicate, and Learn
Describes why collaboration is an inherent problem for organizational intelligence, and how technology can be applied appropriately to help improve the performance and collective knowledge of organizations. Also presented to business and technical audiences, in variations, over the years 2002-2003.
The Pragmatics of Ontology as Language, Contract, and Content
Another for-real ontology creation group.