Jordan Harrod (she/her) is a PhD candidate in the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology program, where she works at the intersection of non-invasive brain-machine interfaces and machine learning for pain and anesthesia under Dr. Ed Boyden and Dr. Emery Brown. When not reading the latest V. E. Schwab book or practicing her Olympic lifts at the gym, she uses her YouTube channel, Twitter, and Instagram to engage the public on artificial intelligence.
How do you describe the videos you make?
I make videos on artificial intelligence and machine learning, as well as other interesting emerging technologies. I tend to focus on how new technologies and algorithms will impact the average person, but I also like talking about random research or news that I think other people will find interesting. My channel started out as a pure AI channel and has since transitioned to covering a broader array of topics. I used to do more coding videos in the past, but I’ve since moved away from that because it ends up being a ton of work on top of my day job as a PhD student.
Why did you want to start making videos in general, and why did you want to make videos about artificial intelligence, algorithms, and new technologies specifically?
I’ve been involved in science education in some capacity since I started college, where I taught a class on “How to Engineer Superpowers” using the basics of biomedical engineering for middle-school students. As I got closer to graduating from undergrad, I started doing more science writing because I was interested in reaching larger audiences; I wrote for Massive Science and Science in the News for about a year.
I’d always been curious about YouTube as an educational platform (and "Crash Course" saved my test scores on multiple occasions in college 😅), so I started my channel as a hobby right before I started my PhD. I focused on artificial intelligence, algorithms, and new technologies because they were topics that I’d recently started incorporating into my undergraduate research, and I wanted to learn more about the field. I’d been a teaching assistant for a few classes as an undergrad and found that teaching topics was the best way for me to really learn and internalize the material, so I figured it would be a helpful way of staying on top of a field that I’d recently started working in.
For a new viewer, which single video of yours would you recommend they start with, and why?
I’ll give two options: If you’re interested in the intersection of AI and the queer community, I recently did a video exploring a DeepMind paper on the topic. On the other hand, if you’re interested in interesting/weird AI things that affect all of us, I’d probably recommend my video on a free facial recognition service called Pimeyes—I found myself surprised by what I found when I searched my own image.
What's been challenging or surprising about making the videos you make?
I started the channel as a hobby that I’d do when I had time in grad school, so it’s been interesting to have it grow into essentially a part-time job, and balancing my PhD work and my content work has been a bit challenging as the channel has grown and as I’ve expanded to other platforms (Twitter, Tiktok, Instagram, etc.). I also definitely have trouble delegating work to other people (even work that I don’t really enjoy—*cough* editing *cough*), so I’ve been working on essentially learning how to run a business and hire help, which has been challenging but also surprisingly fun.
What would you like LGBTQ+ scientists to know about your videos?
I discuss this in the video I mentioned earlier, but it was only recently that I realized that while there’s a lot of discussion on algorithmic fairness as it relates to marginalized groups and gender-related inequities, there hasn’t been a ton of discussion on algorithmic fairness as it relates to the LGBTQ+ community, in spite of the fact that algorithms have the potential to have profound positive and negative impacts on us. I’m planning to try to incorporate it more into the content I make, but I also think that this is an area of the field where we could use more scientists interested in developing systems that support queer people, and pushing back against systems that would hurt queer people.