Junling Hu is the founder and CTO of Question.ai and author of the book The Evolution of Artificial Intelligence. Lumiata recently sat down with her to talk about the Covid-19 pandemic, her thoughts as an AI practitioner, and her decision to participate in the Lumiata COVID-19 Global AI Hackathon.
Q. How are you thinking about the current crisis? What’s top of mind for you?
A. I am deeply saddened by the massive deaths caused by the coronavirus. My heart goes out to all the families who lost their loved ones. My top question is: Why do different countries and different states in the U.S. have different death rates? For example, Taiwan has the same population as New York State. Today, Taiwan has roughly 400 infected cases and 6 deaths, New York has over 700 times the infected cases and almost 4000 times more deaths. What can we do to reduce the death rate and infection rate? We have the power to uncover these answers by looking deep into the data.
Q. How is your business addressing the challenges posed by COVID-19?
A. Our code and servers are in the cloud, so there is not much direct impact. Of course, we miss in-person meetings, but video conference has been wonderful.
Q. We really appreciate your joining us as a judge for the COVID-19 AI Hackathon. How will it be helpful or useful to you?
A. I am honored to be a judge. I am excited to see Lumiata put together data sources for use, and I look forward to reviewing the results generated by the participants. As an AI practitioner, I am glad to join the fight against COVID-19.
Q. Given your unique perspective as someone originally from Wuhan, what advice would you give to hackathon participants?
A. Based on my conversation with people in Wuhan, the actual number of deaths and infected in China are much higher than reported (the conservative estimate is 15 times higher, some people put it at 40 times higher). Therefore data from China and Iran (who also under-report their numbers) need to be treated carefully. These figures are not suitable to draw any conclusion.
Q. Can you share a story from this pandemic that has stuck with you?
A. Two days after “shelter in place” in California, I took a walk in my neighborhood. It was a weekday morning. There was not a single person on the streets. There were no cars either. It seemed the whole world was standing still. It felt eerie. Our life was forever changed. There was panic and fear. I hope we can find the treatment for the virus as soon as possible. I also hope we can improve our public health system so that the same tragedy will not happen again.