Artificial Intelligence Conferences Programming What I’m Up To

I’m doing an AI presentation at Civo Navigate North America in Austin in February!

Conference talk title card for Civo Navigate North America 2024: “You’re not too late to the A.I. party” with Joey de Villa
“Keep Austin Weird” sticker

It’s only day one of the new year and I just fulfilled one of my resolutions: to land a conference speaking session on AI outside my usual stomping grounds. I’m going to be a speaker at Civo Navigate North America, which takes place on February 20th and 21st in Austin, Texas!

What’s Civo Navigate, and what is Civo?

What’s Civo Navigate, you ask? Here’s a one-minute video that answers your question:

Civo is a cloud hosting provider based on Kubernetes, with a focus on developer-friendliness and wallet-friendliness. It’s a refreshing change from this state of affairs:

Comic about AWS

Panel 1: Person looking at venus flytrap, asking “Why would a fly land on something like this?”

Panel 2: Same person, looking at mousetrap: “Rats should be ashamed for falling into this trap.”

Panel 3: Same person, gesturing with both arms towards a bear leg trap: “BEARS! This is ridiculous!”

Panel 4: Same person looking at a sign that reads “AWS free tier:” “This must be fun!”

I met the people at Civo last year when they held Civo Navigate North America in Tampa — and not in a convention center or hotel conference rooms, but at Tampa’s big riverside food hall, Armature Works! Here’s the promo for that event:

The 2023 edition of Civo Navigate North America was a great conference with interesting talks and a warmer, more personal “feel” than a typical vendor-hosted event. Civo’s contributions continued long afterward, with their being great supporters of the Tampa Bay tech scene and this blog.

I’m looking forward to the 2024 edition in Austin?

What’s my talk about?

Title card: “You’re not too late to the A.I. party,” featuring a Canva AI-generated image of a party with two women in summer cocktail dresses and a robot at the bar. The generated image is deep in the “uncanny valley.”

My talk is titled You’re not too late to the A.I. party, and it’s for people who’ve been too busy with their actual work to get into AI and have been feeling increasing amounts of FOMO.

Here’s the description of the talk, with additional AI-generated photos (that are deep in the uncanny valley):

Another very “uncanny valley” Canva AI-generated photorealistic image of robots and humans having a great time at a party.

Have you been too busy getting your actual work done to join the artificial intelligence party and feel that you’ve already missed out on the technical career opportunity of a lifetime? If you answered “yes,” this talk is for you.

The good news is that you’re not too late to the A.I. party. It’s just getting started and you arrived at a good time — perhaps even “fashionably late!” You just need someone to take you around the room and make some introductions.

Another very “uncanny valley” Canva AI-generated photorealistic image of robots and humans having a great time at a party.

To help you “work the room” as you enter the party, you’ll get an overview of artificial intelligence technologies, from the rules-based models and expert systems of A.I.’s early days to the present era of neural networks, machine learning, transformers, and large language models.

This party won’t be limited to just hand-waving small talk in the living room. We’ll go into the kitchen — the true heart of any party — and look at actual code in action. We’ll start with ELIZA, the original chatbot from the 1960s, observe a neural network, and look at an LLM-powered “What should I wear today?” app. You’ll even be able to download them for yourself!

Another very “uncanny valley” Canva AI-generated photorealistic image of robots and humans having a great time at a party.

This talk aims to be like the best parties — the ones you’re glad you were at. You’ll leave this one knowing more about AI’s underpinnings and a much better idea of the next steps in your AI journey, whether it’s catching up with AI developments, harnessing your current skills to integrate AI into your work, or even pivoting into AI development.

In my talk, I’ll discuss:

  • Generative vs discriminative AI
  • “Old School” rules-based AI vs. the “New School” version powered by neural networks, data science, and lots of data
  • How the internet changed AI
  • The intersection of data science, statistics, and AI
  • The paper “Attention is All You Need,” what it means, and how it changed AI forever
  • Large language models (LLMs)
  • Retrieval-Augmented Generation (RAG)
  • Vector databases
Graphic: “Eliza, the O.G. chatbot,”

This talk won’t be all hand-wavey and descriptions, but will also feature demos of actual working code that you can also download, including:

  • ELIZA, the original 1964 chatbot, but written in present-day Python.
  • A basic neural network demo that shows how you implement them — perhaps the one that recognizes handwritten numbers, perhaps something a little more interesting!
  • “Sweater or no?” — a large language model-powered application that tells you what to wear based on your location, the weather, and the event you’re attending.
Cover of the book “You Look Like a Thing and I Love You.”

I’ll also talk about potential “next steps” that you can take, including:

  • Reading material, including the funniest book about AI (for now): Janelle Shane’s You Look Like a Thing and I Love You. Of course, you don’t have to wait for the talk (or even attend) to read it; you can get it now!
  • There Will Be Math — or, the math you’ll need to know to get into AI.
  • Effective Altruists, Effective Accelerationists, and how to Effectively Avoid both.
  • How to send the right signals to employers so they’ll know that AI is your jam!

Find out more about Civo Navigate North America

Want to know more about Civo Navigate North America, my talk, and everyone else who’s presenting? Check out their site, and come on down to Austin for February 20th and 21st!