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First Rhode Island - Israel Artificial Intelligence (AI) Conference a Success


On January 24, 2023, the Rhode Island Israel Collaborative (RIIC), in collaboration with Brown University’s Applied Mathematics Department and Computer Science Department, held a conference on artificial intelligence (AI) in Providence, Rhode Island. The conference, held at the Brown University School of Engineering, was sponsored by the Israel Consulate General to New England.

RIIC CEO Avi Nevel opened the conference by thanking the event’s speakers and RIIC’s partners for making the event a reality, followed by a short introduction in which he described some of the challenges and opportunities of the “growing AI landscape.” Nevel then introduced Brown’s Vice President for Research, Dr. Jill Pipher, who spoke of the “huge and increasing role that AI plays in our daily lives.” Pipher described the rapidly growing science of AI as “an important part of our enterprise,” saying, “[we] look forward to supporting this research in the future.” Following Pipher’s remarks, Nevel welcomed Rhode Island Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos to the podium.


Matos spoke of her interest and enthusiasm in building strong state relationships with Israel, and thanked the RIIC for its help in bringing many productive partnerships to Rhode Island. She spoke of Rhode Island’s role as the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution, and expressed her hope that “with AI, we have a chance to do that again – Rhode Island can continue to lead the way in new industry.” Matos also spoke of AI’s potential applications in education, and declared her office’s commitment to supporting Rhode Island’s role in AI research and development.


After Matos came a recorded message from Rhode Island Secretary of Commerce Liz Tanner, who described Rhode Island as “a place at the forefront…where technological innovation can thrive.” Tanner spoke of the close relationship between Israel and Rhode Island, and echoed Matos’ commitment to “making it easier to do business in Rhode Island.”


Tanner was followed by Israel Consul General to New England, Ambassador Meron Reuben, whose offices sponsored the conference. Reuben spoke of his personal interest in AI and the potential of neural networks, saying that he “look[s] forward to the day that AI helps humanity go on to bigger things.”


The next speaker was Dr. Bjorn Sandstede, chair of Brown’s Applied Mathematics department, who was a key partner in organizing the conference. Sandstede spoke briefly on the controversial ChatGPT chatbot, and the challenges of building AI systems that are trustworthy and accountable. Despite these challenges, he offered praise for the AI-based technologies that “have already had a tremendous impact on our daily lives,” citing self-driving cars, face recognition, and tumor diagnosis as examples.


Sandstede was followed by Dr. Adar Kahana, who co-organized the conference; Kahana is an Israeli-born postdoctoral research fellow at Brown and senior data scientist at Microsoft. Kahana spoke in praise of both Rhode Island and Israel, describing both as “small states with huge innovation and global impact.” Kahana, explained that “The purpose of this conference is to find something you like. The scope is huge.” He closed by praising AI’s ability to provide better answers to complicated problems, a point reinforced by the conference’s first keynote speaker, Brown Professor of Computer Science, Dr. Amy Greenwald.



Greenwald began by speaking of her academic connections to Israel, and then presented an engaging lecture on AI’s applications in game theory, which studies mathematical models of strategic interaction among rational agents. Greenwald spoke about how AI can use these models to optimize a wide range of problems, including online advertising algorithms, the behavior of self-driving cars, and making predictions from medical images.


Kahana, acting as the conference’s moderator, took the podium once again to speak of AI’s role in solving complex problems in physics, commerce, and defense. He then introduced the conference’s four panelists, who shared their diverse experience and expertise in AI.


The first speaker was Dr. Alexander Fleischmann, who had just returned from doing research at Israel’s Weizmann Institute. Fleischmann, associate professor of neuroscience at Brown, described his work and successes in developing an AI that can identify biomarkers for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.


Marco Alvarez, associate professor of Computer Science at the University of Rhode Island, spoke of AI’s potential to optimize the way computers process different types of data, describing applications in engineering and cybersecurity. Alvarez was followed by Dr. Govind Menon, applied mathematics professor at Brown, who will soon take a sabbatical at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel. Menon spoke of his work at the foundational levels of AI, using the frameworks of human cognition to develop intelligent systems such as cryptography and most smartphones’ predictive texting


Menon was followed by Dr. Kira Radinsky, who joined the conference via Zoom from Israel. Radinsky, CEO of Diagnostic Robotics, opened by describing her company’s success in developing an AI system that finds new applications for existing pharmaceuticals. She also described her work in developing an AI able to analyze massive datasets in order to build models that predict individuals’ future medical outcomes.



After Radinsky, the second keynote speaker, Dr. Regina Barzilay, spoke about some of AI’s other medical applications. Barzilay, a computer science professor at MIT, described her work in developing an AI to predict and scan for breast cancer through the analysis of patterns hidden in imaging data. She also spoke of AI’s role in drug discovery, with models that predict certain protein-molecule interactions. She concluded by making a prediction of her own, saying that “AI is headed in the direction of more diagnoses, because it can see things the eye can’t.”


Barzilay’s presentation was followed by a brief Q-and-A session, and a lunch catered by Israeli chef Eran Geffen. Nevel concluded the day by addressing the speakers and attendees, saying, “Thank you all for making this a tremendously successful event. I hope today has generated some new ideas and built stronger connections between Rhode Island and Israel in the field. Together, we can do amazing things.”



Other photos from the Event


















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