Keeping Up With the Karpauskaitės
NYU Abu Dhabi
Rutā Karpauskaitė’s classmates had met—or at least heard her mention—a sister of hers on campus. However, it wasn’t until her parents arrived to celebrate her graduation that everyone had a chance to put two and two together. “People said, ‘Wait, there are four of you?!’” Rutā says with a laugh.
Actually, there are 10: the Karpauskaitės (at right) are a Lithuanian family of seven daughters and one son, born to mom Malgožata and dad Juozas. Rutā, the fourth child, embraced her new role as “first” when she chose to attend NYU Abu Dhabi; her three sisters followed. During the 2018–2019 academic year, there was a Karpauskaitė sister in every class: senior Rutā (NYUAD ’19, above, second from left, who double majored in political science and social research and public policy), junior Laura (NYUAD ’20, second from right, a biology major), sophomore Eglė (NYUAD ’21, left, a double major in political science and legal studies), and freshman Dalia (NYUAD ’22, right, a psychology major).
Between study sessions, dinner outings, and dating advice, there were, of course, the occasional disagreements. “We’re all strong-headed, and some of us get fired up fast,” Rutā says. But now that she’s pursuing an MA in international relations and economics through the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (she’s in Italy this year and will be in Washington, DC, the next), the eldest NYU Karpauskaitė sister admits that she misses being able to walk across campus to borrow one sister’s belt or another’s mug—even when that meant some of her own things quietly disappeared.
Her suggestion for anyone going to college with one or more siblings? Spend as much time together as you can, while you can—even if it means occasionally being mistaken for one another. When Rutā and Eglė took a comparative politics course together, classmates commented on their similar- sounding voices. “It was weird, to be completely honest,” Rutā says. “And I loved it.”
—Eileen Reynolds (GSAS ’11) • Portrait by Siddharth Siva
Read our extended piece at nyu.edu/stories/sisters.
This is a monumental year for technology: 5G wireless is being rolled out, which means “there will be channel bandwidths and download capacities that, for the first time ever, bring fiber-optic speeds to everyone’s phone,” says Ted Rappaport, founding director of NYU Wireless (he’s also a professor at the Tandon School of Engineering, the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, and the Grossman School of Medicine). “This enormous bandwidth will allow augmented reality and massive computational speeds and usher in a whole new realm of applications that we haven’t even thought of, the way 4G led to Uber and Facebook on your phone.”
The 5G breakthrough is, in large part, thanks to the work being done at NYU Wireless. “We did the world’s first measurement of millimeter waves and made measurements that proved that millimeter waves could travel as well as, or better than, today’s 4G cell phones,” says Rappaport, who follows a tradition of NYU telecommunications innovation started by Samuel Morse, inventor of the telegraph and one of this university’s earliest faculty members.
While the tech and business worlds grapple with how to best use 5G, Rappaport’s group is looking ahead to 6G, where, he says, “we move even higher into the radio spectrum to above 100 gigahertz, which is called the subterahertz region.” The potential for 6G bandwidth includes transmitting “information that’s on the order of the computational power of the human brain across the airwaves in real time,” Rappaport says. “You can have drones or robots or cars that are wirelessly controlled.”
To most of us, that may sound like science fiction. Rappaport says for his team, it’s simply “our job—to show the world what’s possible.”
—Eleni N. Gage • Illustration by Marina Muun
Hollywood has long made hay of our anxieties around AI. Tinseltown’s less-than-benevolent cyber creations include, from top left: HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968); VIKI from I, Robot (2004); Colossus from Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970); MCP from Tron (1982); WOPR from WarGames (1983); the supercomputer from Superman III (1983); Arnim Zola in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014); the central computer from Logan’s Run (1976).
Bring up artificial intelligence and reactions range from messianic (former Google CEO Eric Schmidt said AI could solve poverty, climate change, cancer, and war) to apocalyptic (Elon Musk warned it could be “more dangerous than the nukes”). A new book asks if maybe we should all simmer down, take a look at what AI can do right now, and focus on how to make it better.
In Rebooting AI, Ernest Davis, a professor of computer science at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, and Gary Marcus, an Arts and Science psychology professor emeritus, lay out a plan for designing trustworthy, effective AI—after explaining why it currently leaves much to be desired. One example: we don’t have streets full of driverless cars because AI lacks the flexibility to adjust to new environments. Another: because it only works with the data it is given, it has inherited centuries of bias—ask a computer program for an image of a professor and it offers a photo of a white male.
The authors’ proposed solution is to mimic human learning so AI can take in reason and logic as well as data. The goal is developing AI that “voraciously learns from every possible source of information,” the duo writes in their book. “Put that all together, and that’s how you get to deep understanding.”
If AI still makes you nervous, the authors helpfully outline a plan for surviving a robot attack on page 95 of the book.
—Eleni N. Gage
Photos (clockwise from top left): MGM (2001: A Space Odyssey); 20th Century Fox (I, Robot); Universal (Colossus); Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures (Tron); United Artists (WarGames); Warner Bros. (Superman III); Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures (Winter Soldier); MGM (Logan’s Run); composite by Nathaniel Kilcer
An Artistic, Scholarly Forum
Institute of Fine Arts
“Graduate students need a space to publish that has rigor to it, that is highly critical,” says Conley Lowrance, manager of academic programs at the Institute of Fine Arts. “That’s often difficult while they’re in a program—whether it’s the maturity of their research, the time they have, or competition from established scholars submitting to the same journals.” The new biannual online publication Lapis: The Journal of the Institute of Fine Arts is providing just such a platform. The editorial team, made up of Lowrance, professor of fine arts Alexander Nagel, and five graduate students, sends out a global open call for art history, architecture, and art conservation papers by anyone in a graduate program or within three years of degree conferral. “Every article is reviewed by at least two of the student editors before being passed to faculty for double-blind peer review,” Lowrance notes. The first issue, published last May, featured one entry by an IFA student, as well as works by scholars from Columbia University, the University of Illinois, and the University of Pennsylvania. To read Lapis, go to wp.nyu.edu/lapis.
Taking Politics Out of Prison
School of Law
Why does the United States incarcerate more people than any other country in the world? “A big part of it is politics,” says Rachel Elise Barkow, vice dean and criminal law professor at the School of Law. “We elect our prosecutors, our judges, and our sheriffs. Other Western democracies don’t do any of that.” And by putting all of those positions up for election, she says, “you turn criminal justice policy into a question of sound bites and campaigns.” In her book Prisoners of Politics, Barkow, who is also faculty director of NYU’s Center on the Administration of Criminal Law and served on the United States Sentencing Commission from 2013 to 2019, calls for rational sentencing policies based on empirical evidence rather than fearmongering by politicians who try to look tough by hiring more prosecutors and police and building more prisons. “Once you get that dynamic rolling, it’s very hard to undo it,” Barkow says. Apart from being unfair, longer sentences and pretrial detainment—which can result in the loss of a job, childcare arrangements, and child custody—directly correlate to an increase in recidivism, according to studies she cites. It’s critical that we “allow people who have the space from political pressures to look at the best information we have,” Barkow says, “to figure out how best to lower crime rates and help people to successfully reenter society after they’ve served terms of incarceration, and really focus on what works to help better public safety.”
Playwriting With the Pros
Tisch School of the Arts
Last May, MFA students from two programs at the Tisch School of the Arts—Design for Stage and Film, and Graduate Acting—kicked off an annual collaboration with playwriting lab New Dramatists. For two weeks, actors and designers workshopped The Empty Place with company resident Mashuq Mushtaq Deen and director Johanna McKeon. At the start, says assistant arts professor Scott Illingworth, “the playwright and director only have a topic” (theirs was “zero”). Students come up with ideas through improv and interviews, which the playwright uses as a springboard. Performed and designed by those students, The Empty Place ran last November at Tisch’s Atlas Room on Second Avenue.
Gallatin School of Individualized Study
Don’t associate beauty with a ho-hum plastic bottle? Behold Bottleneck, a zero-waste pavilion erected using 1,500 plastic water bottles (that specific number was selected because it’s how many single-use plastic bottles are discarded every second in the United States).
Students in professor Louise Harpman’s Architecture and Urban Design Lab at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study were responsible for the unique creation. Instead of using adhesives, discarded corrugated cardboard laser-cut into gaskets at the Tandon School of Engineering secured the structure, which measured about 14 feet in diameter and occupied the lobby of Gallatin for one day last May; it was displayed in conjunction with the 2019 NYCxDesign festival. Visitors were offered glasses of H2O because “we have excellent tap water in New York City,” Harpman notes. The most satisfying aspect of the project for participants was that it was later reassembled at a homeless outreach and advocacy organization in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, called Our Home.
In September, Susan Greenbaum (STERN ’71, ’78), who since July 2018 has been the interim dean of the School of Professional Studies, was appointed dean through the spring of 2021; the search for her successor commences later this spring. Greenbaum holds an EdD from the University of Pennsylvania in addition to her BS and MBA from the Stern School of Business. Before her time at SPS, she ran NYU’s Wasserman Center for Career Development and held leadership roles and was an adjunct faculty member at Stern.
(Illustration by Lauren Mortimer)
Unlocking a City’s Past
A group of professors and students at NYU Shanghai are examining the city’s history, geography, and ecology in order to better understand its future. And though the project is called Zaanheh: A Natural History of Shanghai (Zaanheh is a phonetic translation of the city’s name in Shanghainese), it takes its inspiration from New York. Ann Chen, an assistant arts professor in the Interactive Media Arts department, recalls that “in the fall of 2017, Eric Sanderson, who created The Mannahatta Project, came to NYU Shanghai and gave a talk about the work,” which used historical artifacts and scientific data to recreate Manhattan’s ecology in 1609, the year Henry Hudson arrived. “We wanted to do the same for this city,” Chen says, “to do something collaborative and possibly give back to Shanghai.”
As with the project that inspired it, Zaanheh is a multidisciplinary effort, bringing together historians, artists, scientists, and urban planners. But unlike Mannahatta, which focuses on a single moment, Zaanheh plans to explore five significant moments in the city’s geologic and cultural history, including the 1842 Treaty of Nanjing, “when Shanghai started to change very rapidly due to colonization and the opening up of trade, and [when] we have a lot of historical information,” says Chen. “The British started surveying and creating Western-style maps that we can use to pinpoint specific information [such as] what the river edges looked like and what kinds of plants were growing in different areas.”
Zaanheh not only travels back in time, but it looks forward as well. “At one point, Shanghai was underwater; the sediment coming down from the Yangtze River created the city,” Chen says. “Now we’re facing changes that are more human-generated, like climate change and rising seas, and there’s the possibility that Shanghai will be underwater again. We’re hoping that by recreating the ecological past, it might give clues for how we prepare ourselves for this future.”
Another goal is that the knowledge gleaned from the research—projected to take five years but possibly going longer—will lead the group down other educational avenues. Chen has started teaching a course in Acoustic Ethnography of the Yangtze Delta. Among the assignments, she says: “doing sound investigations and field recordings around Shanghai.”
—Eleni N. Gage
An LA Premiere
NYU Los Angeles
A promising future just got brighter for the 34 juniors and seniors who inaugurated the NYU Los Angeles program this past fall. Lawyer, writer, and producer Nina Sadowsky is the site’s director, and courses from six schools—the College of Arts and Science; the Gallatin School of Individualized Study; NYU Abu Dhabi; the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development; the Stern School of Business; and the Tisch School of the Arts—are offered, many taught by industry pros. “It’s the same educational requirements [as New York], with a little LA spirit,” Sadowsky says, adding that business rather than production is the focus. Each student gets an internship, with placements at the Producers Guild of America, CAA, E! News, and other local powerhouses. The program’s biggest asset, however, may be the area’s more than 14,000 alumni. “The NYU community in Los Angeles has been very welcoming and supportive,” says Sadowsky. “People have reached out and asked, ‘How can I help?’ ” with many guaranteeing interviews to all who apply. “There is a real hunger not only for NYU to have a presence here,” she says, “but for NYU to build a community.”
Giving Mayors Tech Tools for Smarter Cities
Wagner Graduate School of Public Service
How do you juggle the myriad priorities most towns have, from improving broadband to rehabbing infrastructure? If you’re a mayor, one idea is to brainstorm technology-based solutions with colleagues at the twice-yearly Mayors Leadership Institute on Smart Cities, a partnership between the Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and the United States Conference of Mayors. “We bring together mayors in an off-the-record session for peer-to-peer learning accompanied by experts,” says clinical professor of public service Gordon J. Campbell, who oversees the institute with clinical assistant professor of urban planning and public service Neil Kleiman. The incubator is “an opportunity for the mayors to get a better grasp of what a smart city is,” Campbell says, “whether it be financing, operations, partnership strategy, resident engagement, digital inclusion, or the like. Participants leave feeling more comfortable about using technology as a platform to enhance city services, to make them more efficient and effective.”