James Kirk ’08 - Machine Learning Engineer - Spotify

James Kirk

James Kirk

Be sure to thank James Kirk, class of ’08, the next time you select a playlist to work out to at the gym. “I help Spotify build systems that learn how people enjoy music” he says, and then “…use that knowledge to automatically create fun, satisfying listener experiences”. After graduating from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, James moved to Boston where he started working at Spotify as a machine learning engineer. Questions concerning ethics and privacy take up a lot of his time at work. “The tools we have are more powerful than ever before, and companies are collecting more data from more areas of people's lives than ever before”. Are we being honest and clear with our users about what we know? Does the data we collect benefit our users, or does it only benefit us? “This means that, as someone who builds these AI systems, everything I do is steeped in questions of ethics and these questions rarely have clear answers”.

Dublin taught him to be critical and honest with himself. “We would all be better off with some more Truth from groups that collect our private information and, from inside those groups, it can take serious Courage to speak up when the group's actions might not be in the best interests of the people who trust us”. These Dublin values are, and must be, woven into everything we do.