I’m Kathryn Hume. I live in Toronto. I’ve always had a visceral aversion to chewing gum and the sound of people biting into apples. I’m of middling stature. My hair is thin, curly, and dark brown: it is speckled with few enough grey strands that most describing my appearance wouldn’t deem them noteworthy, if not unnoticeable. I’ve never dyed my hair and, at least for now, never intend to: I stake some pride in the naturalness of my appearance without hanging my identity on it. If I do feel a need to dye my hair as I grey, I wouldn’t feel like I sold out or failed. I’ve never spent much time grooming myself as I prefer to spend time doing other things, am even anxious about all the things I have yet to do. I’ve often taken pride in how fast I can get ready for a fancy evening outing. It’s possible that this speed is a defense mechanism, a preemptive strategy to excuse my relative lack of beauty for not having put in the time to try to look beautiful.
I’m at home in the mountains. I attune myself to mountain time, dilate change to the beat of a limestone peak eroding from flyby eagle wings and groaning ice. A time full of silence. I can hike for hours and am impervious to blisters, strenuous hills, and mild dehydration. I’m not yet a mountaineer but would like to train to become one. When I’m in the mountains, my mind says out loud “this is where we are meant to be.” My attention flickers between macro- and micro-perceptions: I imprint vistas and examine tiny petals on wildflowers, inhaling all I can while passing by. My mother likes to tell others about the time I taught her the basics of French conjugation through a pretend dialogue about bay laurels and California poppies gracing the trails of Windy Hill in Portola Valley. We didn’t that time, but after a Windy Hill hike it’s lovely to sip Meursault alongside a salmon Niçoise at the Village Pub. My mother and I both love to ride horses and scout opportunities to do so when we travel.
My fiancé says that my face looks intent when I sleep. Many people have described me as intense: at different periods in my life, I’ve experienced elation or deflation upon being perceived that way. I’m maniacal about focus and concentration, so it doesn’t surprise me that even sleeping looks intentional. I do things fully and one at a time. That may be writing, completing a task I’ve set for myself at work, tilting my hand slightly to make it as graceful as possible when pouring a cup of tea for another, peeling carrots to bake them with cinnamon and clove, or slowing breath to inhale-exhale cycles to one minute when I meditate. My fiancé and I meditate together, looking directly into one another’s eyes. It’s an experience of fusion, a love Saint Catherine of Siena reserved for God.
In 2017, I told someone I wanted to spend my career commercializing scientific research. Practically, this means I like working in early-stage startups and research labs. I’ve worked in machine learning since 2015, helping to discover and communicate the value of machine learning products. I’ve worked in the broader field of enterprise software since 2012 and have found that my graduate training in the humanities makes me particularly good at product marketing and solution selling: humanists learn how to discern what others think they are thinking, not whether others are right or wrong.
I speak around the world on artificial intelligence and take pride in my ability to explain complex technologies in plain words. I help executives identify business opportunities, policy makers understand societal implications and risks, and citizens understand what artificial intelligence means for our collective future. I love teaching, and have recently given guest lectures at Harvard Business School, Stanford, Michigan State University Law School, NextAI, University of Toronto, and MIT. Here I talk about the challenges of enterprise AI adoption. Here I explain machine learning and applications in security. Here I analyze using AI to create art from past masterpieces. Here I explain why my doctorate in intellectual history prepared me for product marketing.
I’m writing a book that shows how machine learning algorithms shape experience by presenting a series of memories as if they were data reshaped by algorithms. Each chapter takes in a memory and outputs a representation of that memory according to the logic of an algorithm applied on a selected time scale. One chapter, for example, depicts one day in the mind of a 17-year-old girl wrestling with the experience of optimizing for different objectives (as all teenagers, and some algorithms, do). Another chapter depicts the richness of what can be perceived in one second, infused with the particular density of falling in love. Like an algorithm sensitive to new input data, the lover canvasses her world to identify the signs of love shared and returned, radically updating her sense of future possibility with each gesture and sign. In short, I am offering an alternative to the story of how human being may be impacted by algorithms: this isn’t about machines becoming smarter than their creators, it’s about what the pursuit to design intelligence can reveal about our freedom to design identity and meaning.
My blog features myriad thoughts on technology, art, literature, philosophy, yoga, religion, running, travel, music, values, relationships, love, and my perpetual quest for self improvement. I hope at least one post will stimulate your mind, touch your heart, or challenge your assumptions about how the world works.
You’re welcome to contact me with comments (find a typo or grammatical error?), questions (interested in background reading on a particular topic?), or ideas for a guest blog post (it would be awesome to have other people involved on the site!).