TEDxsters! Meet Keith McGreggor, director of VentureLab at Georgia Tech and lover of musical string instruments. Keith’s multi-faceted interests and entrepreneurial talents have led him to pioneer a number of areas, and he is now leading the way in understanding Artificial Intelligence (AI).
This year’s theme is “illuminate.” What does “illuminate” mean to you?
To me, illumination is not about light itself, but rather the interplay of light and the world to create meaning. My research is all about visual perception, and how the ways in which we think about the world determine how we are able to see it, and sense it, and make sense of it. To challenge our perceptions, we must challenge and change our thinking. As an AI researcher, in the business of creating “minds,” that’s why I regard illumination as so important: new illuminations, the ones that come after we set aside our traditional ways of thinking, allow for some rather stunning breakthroughs.
What is your passion?
I’m passionate about AI, my playground for all these years. I’m passionate about entrepreneurs and education. I’m passionate about bluegrass music. But, I’m most passionate about my family…the whole world could and might grind away, but our love for and devotion to each other would endure.
What keeps you centered in this crazy world?
The rare occasions when I can pick up my banjo and play, not for anyone else, but for me. There is something deeply sensual and spiritual about the whole experience: the old leather-musty smell of a just-opened case, the raw scratched memory of old songs on the hide head, the pressure-feel-impact of endless thumb-index-middle right hand variations, the spider-like joy of the left hand fingers moving over old rosewood and pearl, the give of the string and the sharp slur of a well-hit hammer-on, the way the tiny addition of a seventh note brings the resolving promise of the coming chord, the weight of all that wire and wood lifted by a staccato lick, the clean and infinite space between each note, the blueness left on your fingers by the nickel in the picks. It resonates with me.
What is one place you’ve visited that you’ll never forget?
Michele and I visited Cayman Brac in 1987, had to take a little prop plane from Grand Cayman over to the sister islands, 90 low-flown, scary miles across the sea. No taxis or other tourists, just a few hundred inhabitants and us. We explored the small island in a microbus, picking up and letting off folks at polite markets and tidy homes, live produce and all, culminating in a drive through fields of tall sunflowers and a walk to the very heart-stopping edge of the Brac, 150 feet above the wild Caribbean Sea. At the end of the day, we drank cold beer and teased fish with our feet at the end of a dock while waiting to ride the mail plane back. It felt like time stood still. Still does.
What are three words to best describe you?
Always, always learning.
It’s September! Don’t forget to get your Early Bird tickets to see Keith and others present at this year’s TEDxPeachtree! You can let Keith know you’ll be coming by tweeting out to @TEDxPeachtree and @KeithMcGreggor.