BEFORE ENTERING THE chambers of the US House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, she lifted her phone to snap a photo of the oversize wooden doors. (“As a scientist, I feel special about the committee,” she said.) Then she stepped inside the cavernous room and walked to the witness table.
The hearing that morning, titled “Artificial Intelligence—With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility,” included Timothy Persons, chief scientist of the Government Accountability Office, and Greg Brockman, cofounder and chief technology officer of the nonprofit OpenAI. But only Li, the sole woman at the table, could lay claim to a groundbreaking accomplishment in the field of AI. As the researcher who built ImageNet, a database that helps computers recognize images, she’s one of a tiny group of scientists—a group perhaps small enough to fit around a kitchen table—who are responsible for AI’s recent remarkable advances.