#IamthefutureofAI: Sasha Luccioni

In this blog post, we feature Hugging Face’s Research Scientist and Climate Lead, Sasha Luccioni as she reveals interesting details about how she fueled her passion and made her way into the AI space. She’s one of the amazing folks who continue to work on AI for Humanity projects like climate change, health, education, and humanitarian response.

This interview is part of Women in AI Ethics (WAIE)’s “I am the future of AI” campaign launched with support from the Ford Foundation and Omidyar Network to showcase multidisciplinary talent in this space by featuring career journeys and work of women as well as non-binary folks from diverse backgrounds building the future of AI. By raising awareness about the different pathways into AI and making it more accessible, this campaign aspires to inspire participation from historically underrepresented groups for a more equitable and ethical tech future.

Can you share an incident that inspired you to join this space?

I was working as an AI researcher in finance and, despite the interesting projects and great pay, I felt a profound frustration that I wasn’t using my skills to leave a better world for my daughters. So I quit my job and took a massive pay cut to go back to academia and work on climate change initiatives as a postdoc, and never looked back! Passion over money, any day.

How did you land your current role?

After two years of working as a postdoc with Yoshua Bengio, I needed to find a “grown up” job. I wanted to work on climate and ethics without working in Big Tech. Hugging Face seemed like a great fit, given its mission to democratize AI and its emphasis on responsible and ethical tech. And a year and a half later, I am happy to say that they have exceeded my expectations of what an AI startup can do and how mindful the work can be!

What kind of issues in AI do you tackle in your day-to-day work?

I and the rest of the Ethics and Society team work a lot on issues dealing with data and model ethics, in terms of guidelines, documentation, and consent. Given the quantity of models and datasets that are uploaded on the Hugging Face website, we are constantly developing new guidelines and working with the community to define norms and licenses.

If you have a non-traditional or non-technical background, what barriers did you encounter and how did you overcome them?

I have a Bachelor’s in Linguistics! I’ve definitely had a hard time learning how to program and “fitting in” to the traditional AI community. Especially during my Ph.D., I was one of the only women and didn’t have much of a support network! I also had both of my daughters during my Ph.D., so that was a hard time overall, and I’m lucky I had a great, supportive Ph.D. supervisor who really guided me through all that.

Sasha Luccioni is a Research Scientist at HuggingFace, an AI community that thrives on multidisciplinarity & is passionate about the full scope of machine learning, from science to engineering to its societal and business impact. She’s been pursuing projects that will maximize the ethical and societal impacts of Machine Learning models and apply “AI for Good.”

Connect with Sasha on Twitter or via LinkedIn.