A researcher studying whether A.I. can learn common sense says the technology is ‘almost like a new intellectual species’

April 19, 2023, 12:48 PM UTC
The TED logo stands outside of the Vancouver Convention Center at TED2019 - Bigger Than Us on April 18, 2019 in Vancouver, Canada.
Lawrence Sumulong—Getty Images

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! UPS is starting negotiations with the Teamsters Union, Kim Kardashian’s investment firm poached new leaders, and Fortune editor-at-large Michal Lev-Ram reports from TED. Have a wonderful Wednesday.

– ‘Curiosities’ at TED. I spent Tuesday evening at a dinner hosted by Bay Area recruiter Jana Rich and Kelly Bush Novak, founder of Hollywood PR firm, ID. The duo gathered a small group of women who are attending the TED conference in Vancouver—which is currently underway. Rich started hosting this intimate dinner about 20 years ago, when she first began coming to TED and says that back then, she just wanted to find more women to hang out with.

This is my first TED, so I can’t make any comparisons. But it’s hard to imagine this event without a strong female presence. These first couple of days, women seemed well represented on stage. And they had some impactful and memorable words to share. Here are a few highlights:

Nadya Tolokonnikova from the band and activist group Pussy Riot, who last month was named one of Russia’s most wanted criminals, asked the audience to stand and imagine how she felt when she was being sentenced back in 2012 after publicly criticizing Vladimir Putin. “I was handcuffed, standing in a small stage,” she said. Tolokonnikova served two years in prison, forced to separate from her young child. 

“Did we achieve what we wanted? Yes and no,” she told the audience. “Much work remains to be done.” (The musician-activist finished her talk by directly addressing Putin, saying she was talking to him “a wanted criminal to a wanted criminal.”) 

Another female speaker at TED who spoke truth to a different kind of power is researcher Yejin Choi from the University of Washington. Choi has made it her mission to investigate if and how artificial intelligence systems can learn common sense—and to highlight the risks and the flaws in A.I., even as the technology (and the companies who develop it) becomes more influential and more mainstream. Many believe A.I.’s current mistakes can be corrected in the future, but that’s not necessarily the case, according to Choi. “A.I. is almost like a new intellectual species,” said the academic, whose slides included some of the most creative uses of emoji I’ve seen to date. 

And then, there was actress Yara Shahidi, of Black-ish fame, who spoke about unleashing our creativity and shared this gem of a quote: “Our curiosities are often mislabeled as distractions.”

The women at the dinner also had lots of insights to share with each other, so I’ll be leaving TED with food for thought from women on the main stage and from those I dined with—and plenty of new curiosities.

Michal Lev-Ram

The Broadsheet is Fortune’s newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women. Today’s edition was curated by Kinsey Crowley. Subscribe here.


- Union negotiations. UPS CEO Carol Tomé is kicking off her first negotiation this week with the Teamsters Union, which represents 330,000 employees. They are expected to debate schedules for part-time and weekend drivers as they look to renew a five-year contract. Despite the e-commerce boom during the pandemic, competitor FedEx recently restructured and cut costs, and UPS is bracing for a global downturn. UPS says worker flexibility is key to meeting consumers' demand. Wall Street Journal

- Stepping down. One of the Middle East’s most prominent female bankers Elissar Farah Antonios is leaving Citigroup. She led operations in North Africa and the Middle East, a key region for the bank after deciding to focus on global wealth centers. Shamsa Al-Falasi will step into part of Antonio's role as CEO of Citibank, N.A. UAE Onshore Branch, and she will continue on as interim Citigroup’s country officer in the UAE as well until a replacement is found. Bloomberg

- Quantum leap. Lynn Yu jumped from VP of business strategy to CEO of luxury women's fashion brand Jason Wu three and a half years ago. While she came to the role with some imposter syndrome for being younger and greener than the previous CEO, she said the key to her success has been bringing in a team of dedicated and supportive teammates who can help execute her vision. Fortune

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: NMI has named Tiffany Johnson as its new chief product officer. 


- Inventor equality. China has seen the number of women inventors grow at twice the rate as the U.S. from 2001 to 2005 and 2016 to 2020, according to a study by the World Intellectual Property Organization. Global patent filings could reach gender parity in about 40 years, a rate that could have been slowed by the pandemic, Holly Fechner, the executive director of Invent Together, writes in a Fortune commentary. Fortune

- To be the breadwinner. Women in hetero couples who out-earn their husbands say that the stigma affects their marriage, either from strangers or their partners. Some say others assume their financial success was driven by their husbands, and others say that the money women make for the family causes a point of tension and embarrassment for the husband. Buzzfeed

- New hires. Kim Kardashian's investment firm SKKY has scooped up six new hires with solid finance industry experience. The growing team has six women and two LGBTQ-identifying employees. The new hires include COO Kaitlin May, who came from Apollo, Citigroup Inc. and Putnam Investments. The firm aims to invest in consumer products and the media industry, leaning on Kardashian's experience with her reality TV show and SKIMS undergarment business. Bloomberg

- A/B testing DEI. While companies have seen a boom in DEI efforts over the last few years, fewer than 1% were able to identify which strategies are successful in curbing discrimination. A case study seeking to bring more women up in the telecommunications industry showed how A/B testing can provide insight into what messaging resonates with the intended audience and help lower barriers to growth. Harvard Business Review


Of course men already hate The Marvels GQ

Megan Thee Stallion in her own words Elle

The tell-all queen of TV: How Drew Barrymore became a viral sensation The Guardian

DeSantis tried to bury her. Now she’s helping Trump try to bury him. New York Times


“(It) really helped me feel empowered. It helped me feel like I was taking back some control. And I think it sort of allowed me to come in from a different doorway.”

Rachel McAdams on taking breaks from acting

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