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ETH Alumni to launch AI-powered Knowledge Network



This article was published by ETH Zürich on November 30, 2023.

The ETH Alumni Association, in collaboration with Zurich-based company Starmind, is bringing together a world-first AI-powered Alumni Knowledge Network. This online community will be a place where ETH Alumni can network, share their professional and life experiences, ask and answer technical or industry questions, get advice on their careers, on moving to different countries, life in Zurich, and much more. 

We have interviewed Daniel Naeff, ETH Alumni board member and lead of the Knowledge Network project, and Marc Vontobel, CEO of Starmind, to learn more about this promising initiative.  

Daniel, what inspired ETH Alumni to create a Knowledge Network?

As part of the ETH Alumni board’s recent strategy reviews leading up to the Transformation Program, we started to formulate potential solutions to a question that has been on my mind for quite some time: how can we leverage the vast social capital (knowledge, experience, network of connections, etc.) from our alumni community for each individual alumna/alumnus, the entire alumni community and, eventually, ETH.

Daniel, how does the ETH Alumni Knowledge Network differ from other professional or educational networking platforms?

Many networking platforms focus mainly on digitally connecting people who already know each other. Meanwhile, most educational platforms are geared towards distributing content among their members. Our network is different. We bring people together based on their knowledge needs and expertise. In doing so, we capture these interactions, creating highly relevant content that benefits the entire alumni community.

Marc, can you explain how Starmind works?

Starmind enables users to ask any question they have. Our patented AI then analyzes the essence of the question and calculates which 4-10 people are most qualified to answer it. These individuals are notified via the app and can provide their answers. With a 95% overall success rate and multiple experts involved, most answers undergo a form of peer review, ensuring high quality. Starmind also stores these answers, so if similar questions arise in the future, they can be addressed without requiring experts to answer them again.

Marc, how did this collaboration start?

Starmind has primarily been used by large, knowledge-intensive companies like Roche, Accenture, and PepsiCo to foster quick and high-quality knowledge exchange among employees. Given our roots at ETH, there have been sporadic touchpoints over the years. But when the ETH Alumni board approached us with the idea of the Alumni Knowledge Network, we were immediately captivated and fully on board with the concept.

Daniel, can you give some practical examples of the benefits alumni can expect?

Alumni can expect a range of benefits. For example, if you're stepping into a new job, moving to a new city, or facing a difficult organizational problem, you can lean on the expertise within the network for advice and solutions. You will also have more direct access to alumni from different backgrounds and generations to exchange experiences and ask questions you couldn’t easily get answers for anywhere else.

Marc, in a world of Generative AI, why do you focus on Human Intelligence?

Generative AI is indeed a significant milestone in the development of artificial intelligence. However, it generally focuses on information that's already been documented. I'm continually fascinated by the vast reservoir of knowledge that exists in people's heads—in the form of experiences, expertise, and tacit knowledge. This type of information isn't accessible to even the most advanced Large Language Models and likely won't be for a long time. When I consider the collective wisdom within the ETH Alumni Knowledge Network, I'm confident that we can outperform even the most cutting-edge AI solutions out there.

The ETH Alumni Knowledge Network is now live!

Thousands of alumni have already joined, and conversations of all kinds are happening right now. Don’t miss out! Check your mailbox (including spam folders!!) for a Knowledge Network invite, or contact the ETH Alumni Association if the invitation email has not reached you.

Access to the Knowledge Network is exclusive to alumni with an ETH Alumni Association membership; Click here to become a member. Visit the ETH Alumni Knowledge Network here.


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