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It was my first week at VentureBeat, in mid-April. OpenAI had just released the new iteration of its text-to-image generator, DALL-E 2; our lead AI writer, Kyle Wiggers, had moved to TechCrunch before I could pick his brain; and I was panicking.
I scrolled frantically through Twitter images of avocado chairs and astronauts riding horses on the moon, wondering what all the fuss was about. I had written about AI trends for over a decade, but it was at a sky-high level — think tips for the C-suite. Now, I belatedly realized how little I understood about the past decade of progress in AI, from machine learning (ML) and computer vision to natural language processing (NLP). Every beat I’ve ever covered has had a learning curve, of course. But the AI beat felt like Mount Everest.
“Give me six months,” I told everyone who reached out. “I’ll know a lot more in six months. For now, I really need you to start from the very beginning.”
A year of fast and furious AI development
Nine months and over 120 stories later, I can look back and see that not only was I climbing a steep learning curve, but the pace of news in the AI space was faster than in any industry I had covered before.
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Who could possibly keep up with this wild ride? I did what I could: I covered the biggest AI model news, from DALL-E 2 to Google’s Imagen, Meta’s Galactica to ChatGPT. But I completely dropped the ball on DeepMind’s AlphaFold. I managed to dig deep into DeepMind’s AlphaTensor, with its ability to create faster novel matrix multiplication algorithms, but was late to covering Stable Diffusion and its immediate open-source impact.
I tackled AI legislation and regulation: There were the AI hiring tools under scrutiny, the new AI Bill of Rights and the upcoming EU AI Act. There were so many trends to cover, from emotion AI and the possibility of crippling AI cyberattacks to deepfakes and MLOps. There were the big brand efforts in AI, including Walmart, Coca-Cola and John Deere. There were the autumn big tech announcements and AI layoffs.
And who could forget the summer focus on AI “sentience”?
Finally, I had the opportunity to interview top AI leaders, including Geoffrey Hinton, Yann LeCun and Fei-Fei Li, about the 10th anniversary of the so-called deep learning “revolution.”
It was a lot. But it only made me curious and eager to do more in 2023.
Thanks and a few humble resolutions
So many colleagues and industry leaders have helped me this year as I got my sea legs covering the AI beat.
There are far too many to name, but I certainly want to shout-out to VentureBeat managing editor Dan Muse, whom I was also lucky enough to work with when he was at CIO.com, as well as VentureBeat founder and CEO Matt Marshall — both gave me the chance to make the AI beat my own.
Thank you to everyone I’ve spoken to on the vendor side, at the research labs, in the academic community, at the major consulting firms, within the largest enterprise companies — you’ve all been patient, supportive and helpful.
To my fellow journalists covering AI — including top writers like Will Douglas Heaven, Melissa Heikkilä, Kate Kaye, Will Knight, Cade Metz, Kevin Roose, Khari Johnson and, of course, Kyle Wiggers — you may not know me, but your coverage has taught me so much. I learn from you every day!
As for my New Year’s resolutions, I humbly promise to do my best to abide by Ben Shneiderman’s guidelines for journalists and editors about reporting on robots, AI and computers.
A happy holiday season and New Year to all!
Feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @sharongoldman
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