Varshney featured in "The Age of AI," a YouTube original series

1/13/2020 Ryann Monahan, ECE

Written by Ryann Monahan, ECE

CSL Assistant Professor Lav R Varshney is featured in a new YouTube Originals series “The Age of A.I.”  Varshney shares his expertise as the episode explores using artificial intelligence to build a better human. Hosted by Robert Downey Jr., the episode investigates augmenting human abilities with A.I. and our reliance on A.I. to make decisions for us.

Developing effective augmentation, however, requires studying both people and technologies together.  “We must not only develop best ways to structure the interaction between humans and A.I. systems for tasks like decision making, creativity, and moral reasoning, but we also have to ensure that people trust the machines enough to make use of their judgment," Varshney, assistant professor in electrical and computer engineering, explained.

The YouTube Originals documentary series explores the ways artificial intelligence, machine learning, and neural networks will change the world. “Once nothing more than the stuff of comic books and TV shows, we truly have the technology to become modern superheroes,” host Robert Downey Jr. explains in the opening of the episode.

The episode profiles victim of tragic accidents benefiting from life-changing bionic limbs and A.I. versus human intuition during a NASCAR race.  “We now have sophisticated artificial intelligence and motor technology, and material science, and how to talk to the nervous system, setting the foundation for the end of human disability,” Hugh Herr, Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at MIT, explains in the episode.

The promise of A.I. is to augment human abilities, and in fact, many people like to say A.I. stands for "augmented intelligence" rather than "artificial intelligence." “As I alluded to in the episode, a classical example of A.I. systems being turned off in the final seconds is when Neil Armstrong turned off his autopilot and landed on the moon by joystick, perhaps because of mistrust or perhaps because of professional prestige.  Anecdotes like these suggest the need for general design principles that take such human attributes into account,” Varshney said.

Varshney is featured in Season 1 Episode 3 “Using A.I. to build a better human” and is expected to appear in later episodes of the 8-part documentary. Varshney’s episode (S1 E3) can be found at

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This story was published January 13, 2020.