Professional Development
AI / Education / Technology / Universities

Wharton created a free series for entrepreneurs to learn about gen AI

The themed webinars offer the business community a place to learn about the latest developments across the AI spectrum.

AI at Wharton's fall 2023 conference. (Courtesy AI at Wharton)

This story is a part of Technical.ly’s Future Research Month. See the full 2024 editorial calendar.

Since the public release of ChatGPT, the conversation around generative AI has become constant. There’s so much potential and hype and promises and questions, it can be hard to know where to start.

A free virtual discussion series from Wharton offers a way for entrepreneurs, marketers, business leaders and anyone else to dip in their toes.

“As educators, one of the things we’d like to do is offer different entry points,” Mary Purk, executive director of AI at Wharton, told Technical.ly. “Starting with the AI Horizons webinar, it is almost like a topical need for anyone to enter in, who is curious about how AI would apply to a certain topic.”

AI at Wharton is a program within the Analytics at Wharton research center at the University of Pennsylvania’s business school. It started offering the series last year, with the hope that attendees of the biweekly sessions will go on to read research papers, take online courses, attend conferences, or apply what they learn to their own lives and work, Purk said.

The series originated from a desire to find a way to widely share academic research about generative AI, after organizers noted the interest when hosting a conference last fall.

Academic researchers often get access to tools like ChatGPT earlier than the public so they can conduct research, Purk said. It’s important for educational institutions to share findings and create forums, she added, so people can learn about what’s going on in AI, understand where AI is going and how it might impact their companies.

Session titles so far have included “AI and Wellbeing,” “AI and Machine Creativity,” “AI and the Workforce” and “AI and Innovation.” Each features a handful of academics presenting their research and answering questions from attendees.

The webinars are another way for people to absorb information about generative AI and consider how it might apply to their life, said Purk. Across sectors, businesses these days are mainly using AI for cybersecurity, customer service or as a digital assistant, according to a Forbes survey, but it is also being used for content production, inventory management and accounting among other tasks. The conversation around AI also includes consideration of the risks, such as data privacy issues, according to Forbes.

AI at Wharton plans to continue the AI Horizons series, with more sessions in the coming months as well as two conferences planned for 2024. The program is hosting one themed around AI and the future of work in May and the other conference in the fall will be themed around broader generative AI topics.

Potential future themes could include AI and workforce adoption, AI and healthcare or AI and creativity, Purk said.

AI at Wharton works with researchers from all over the world for its conferences and webinars, but it also collaborates with other universities to plan joint programming.

“We hope that we continue to have a strong dialogue, an ecosystem where academics have an easier way to communicate all their different findings around generative AI,” Purk said. “And it’s easy to digest and [people] can participate and provide feedback and ideas.”

Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2024 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
Companies: University of Pennsylvania / Wharton School
Series: Future Research Month 2024

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