Co-Founder, CTO and VP Design of Siri
Tom Gruber is an innovator in technologies that augment human intelligence, individually and collectively. Applying ideas from Artificial Intelligence, Cognitive Science, and Design, his work has explored how connecting people and machines can foster collaboration, learning, knowledge sharing, and getting things done. As a speaker, Tom has a unique ability to break down complex ideas into stories and concepts that everyone can understand. A true polymath, he leverages his diverse experience to spot trends and make connections across artificial intelligence, cognitive science, and design.
Tom was co-founder and head of design for the company that created Siri, the intelligent personal assistant. Siri was started in 2008, launched in early 2010, and was quickly bought by Apple. Now an integral part of the latest Apple products, Siri represents a new mode of interaction with devices and the information services they can reach. At Apple for 8 years, Tom led the Advanced Development Group, which developed new capabilities for Siri and future products.
Throughout his career, Tom has explored the intersection of AI and the UI between humans and computers. In the 1980’s he built AI models for communication prosthesis systems that gave voices to the speechless, and interfaces for experts to build their own expert systems. At Stanford University he developed the first interactive documents on the web that generated natural language answers in response to questions about how things work. His AI research, particularly ontology engineering, helped lay the groundwork for semantic information sharing and the Semantic Web.
He has created several products and companies that support human collaboration and knowledge sharing.
At e-commerce pioneer CommerceNet, he invented HyperMail, the widely used open-source application that turns ordinary electronic mail into a web-based organizational memory — a searchable tapestry of links and threads and conversational networks. HyperMail was used as the archive and public forum for some of the key discussions that defined the emerging ideas of the early Web, and its progeny have since been used to manage tens of millions of online conversations.
He was founder and CTO of Intraspect Software, which created the space of Collaborative Knowledge Management — software that helps large communities of professionals contribute to and learn from a collective body of knowledge. Intraspect applications provide environments for professional people working together on line, collaborating in large distributed communities, and learning from each other. Intraspect was used by hundreds of corporate customers and many thousands of users in Financial Services, Marketing Services, Professional Services, High Technology, and other globally distributed enterprises. Tom is also a founder and Chief Scientist of Consider Solutions, a consultancy that helps Global 2000 companies to design and implement coordinated systems of technology, processes, and human organizations to maximize organizational effectiveness.
During the rise of Web 2.0, he founded and built RealTravel.com, a collective knowledge system where travelers from around the world shared their experiences through beautiful travel journals of their adventures. People looking for information about where to go, where to stay, or what to do in their travels learned from the authentic experiences of those who have been there. By applying machine learning to the global collection of travel journals, RealTravel was able to interview travelers and recommend places to go and adventures to follow. Over a million people used RealTravel to help plan their travel every month.
Today Tom is an impact advisor and public speaker. He promotes the philosophy of Humanistic AI, which he presented in a popular TED talk. He was a founding board member of the Partnership on AI to Benefit People and Society and advocates for the Center for Humane Technology. Tom has served as an advisor to interesting companies in enterprise collaboration (Consider, SocialText), social networking (LinkedIn), semantic web (Radar Networks), Natural Language Search (Powerset), mind mapping (Mindjet), financial services (Goldman), and open content (the Internet Archive). He currently advises companies and organizations that use AI to have a positive impact on humanity, including leaders in Assistive Neurotech, Mental Health Care, Intelligent Customer Interaction, and Predictive Assistance. He is co-founder and CTO of a new company doing Adaptive Music.
Tom is passionate about saving our global ocean and our collective intelligence.
The landscape of AI today is as exciting as it is complex, fraught with unknowns and exponential potential. What is the proper role of AI in relation to humanity? How do we build planetary scale AI-driven systems that deliver outcomes we want while avoiding unintended consequences? In this thought-provoking talk, Tom leverages his decades in AI development and lays out a clear ethical choice. The key lies in aligning the objective of the machine with human values: programming AI to augment and collaborate with us for the betterment of humanity. Taking a philosophical and prescriptive approach, Tom describes real-world applications from his front-row seat as an advisor to over a dozen companies at the forefront of humanistic AI applications. Offering both a rallying cry and a roadmap for the future, Tom shows the way to harness and direct this powerful, pervasive technology for good.
In 2010 Siri was purchased by Apple and remains central to the user experience of all Apple products. Today, Siri is used more than 25 billion times a month in over 30 countries around the world. But in late 2007 when Tom and his co-founders launched their fledgling startup, none of this was guaranteed. Why did top VC firms first invest in the company, even as the sky was falling in financial markets? Tom outlines four key factors that led to Siri’s success — factors that are essential to any successful startup. He shares insider details of Siri’s trajectory while providing real-world examples from other companies, showing how attendees can put these principles into practice with their own ventures.
Artificial Intelligence, operating on big data, opens a world of possibilities to improve how we work, play, learn, and take care of ourselves. This talk offers a cautionary tale of AI and data leading to unforeseen negative outcomes when harnessed by some of the largest companies in the world, and how a new crop of startups are using AI in a new way to foster human health and well being. Examples of applications include health care, assistive care, and mental health – and recent work using AI to help with the COVID-19 pandemic. Drawing from his direct experience building planetary-scale AI and advising a new generation of Humanistic AI companies, Tom offers insights to entrepreneurs, investors, and policymakers navigating the high-stakes decisions of AI today.
Semantic computing has now reached the technical threshold where machines can read and understand the facts in almost everything you read, and everything else you might read. And today audio and video can be transcribed routinely, so machines can also read and remember the content of our conversations and sources of entertainment. What applications does this new AI competence unlock? What happens when we augment our individual and collective memories with AI? Tom reveals the landscape of new possibilities and offers a peek over the horizon of what might be accomplished — and how things might go off course — with this exciting new capability.
Earth’s ocean is in immediate peril from climate change, pollution, and unsustainable fishing. We have one generation left to save it. Who will be the people to change the attitudes and behavior of billions around the world? They are the next generation of scientists, engineers, artists, and activists who were born digital and raised social. What will they need to do to turn the tide? In this rousing talk, Tom applies his inventor’s mind for innovation with his entrepreneur’s penchant for leadership and lays out a roadmap for how we can move our relationship with the ocean from exploitation by the few to stewardship by us all.
Experience the colorful lives of underwater animals through the lens of art photography. Learn about the surprising sex lives of famous animated fish, the bizarre mating habits of punk-rock nudibranchs, and the majestic grace of the largest fish in the ocean. See the adorable playfulness of sea lions up close, and then consider the message they have for us about our relationship to the ocean. Tom is in love with life in the ocean and is privileged to travel around the world to dive in places where marine life still thrives. With his underwater photography and video, he hopes to bring back and share what he sees to create empathy and connection with the ocean.