Polly M Allen is an entrepreneur, investor, technologist and futurist focused on the intersection of artificial intelligence, business leadership and the future of work.
Polly has spent over 20 years working hands-on delivering cutting-edge technology solutions for some of the world’s largest and most innovative companies, first as a software engineer and later as a business leader.
In her work with Amazon on the Alexa Artificial Intelligence (AI) platform, she led the development and launch of the first AI-generated responses on Alexa, using the same underlying transformer models that drive GPT-3 and ChatGPT. She has also delivered predictive analytics systems for Amazon retail and large-scale analytics. Prior to that she was a leader in search systems at Elsevier and Proquest, and even played a part building software for the International Space Station’s (ISS) CanadaArm.
Polly is passionate about DEI in AI and machine learning, and about empowering more people to understand, leverage and participate in the field. In 2022 she founded AI Career Boost, the world’s first AI-focused career accelerator for women, aiming to decrease the gender gap in AI leadership. She recently joined the board for the Center for Workforce Inclusion Labs, the think tank arm for the Center for Workforce Inclusion, one of the oldest and largest non-profits in the US focused on tackling barriers to workforce inequity.
Polly holds a M.Sc. in Software Engineering from MIT and the University of Victoria, and an MBA from the University of British Columbia.
Generative AI: Hype vs. Hope
While ChatGPT has captured the public imagination in early 2023, many academics and industry experts have remained skeptical. Why is that? Are the fears of Generative AI automating millions of jobs grounded in reality? Or is human knowledge and expertise still valuable in a world where we can easily ask, in plain language, for all the answers and content we want?
Based on her experiences working with generative text models at Alexa AI, Polly will drill into where the news headlines have misled the public, what responsible and useful application of generative AI really looks like today, and the realistic potential futures before us – as these technologies force us to face the very nature of truth, trust, and what makes us special as humans.
Confessions of a Former Female Tech Bro
Where are all the women in AI? While high tech field as been notorious for a lack of gender diversity for decades, it wasn’t always so dire: in fact, the percentage of women graduating with computer science degrees was much higher in the mid-1980s that it is today. What happened? And how have women adapted to fit in – and at what cost?
This talk takes a humorous look back at some cultural touchstones in tech from the 2000s and 2010s that would be considered problematic today. It then examines some cultural moments from recent memory which might be problematic tomorrow. We’ll look at some of paths to increased diversity that have been tried so far, why they’re failing, and what really needs to change before tech and AI can be equitable to all.