“Breaking Changes” with Taki Hasegawa: The Trevor Project’s LGBTQ Crisis Contact Simulator

In a recent episode of Breaking Changes, I sat down with Taki Hasegawa, a senior machine learning engineer at The Trevor Project. Taki shared with me a behind-the-scenes look at the LGBTQ Crisis Contact Simulator they have been developing. The Trevor Project is using machine learning powered by GPT-2 to train an artificial intelligence-powered bot that can be used to train crisis counselors regarding the types of conversations they will face while volunteering on the LGBTQ crisis counseling hotline.

A hopeful perspective on AI

If you watch television, movies, and read the mainstream news, you tend to get a pretty dark picture of what artificial intelligence is capable of. My chat with Taki provided me with a more hopeful perspective on how we can use conversational AI to help make the world a better place. It wasn’t just the fact that The Trevor Project is using AI to train crisis counselors; it is also their transparent approach to developing their project—beginning with the original grant from Google as part of their Google AI Impact Challenge, all the way to the latest iteration of the Crisis Contact Simulator based upon feedback from counselors who are using it.

Continuous feedback, continuous improvement

Taki shared their product management approach to iterating upon the machine learning models, APIs, and application behind the Crisis Contact Simulator. Reflecting what we are seeing across the API-first landscape, The Trevor Project is employing feedback loops across the application’s stakeholders to gather the information they need to continue improving the app and better equip counselors with what they’ll need to support LGBTQ youth. This iterative, product-driven approach to evolving machine learning models, APIs, and applications has become the leading way to deliver technology that is rapidly changing and advancing to meet the demands of consumers.

Combining AI and API innovation

In the time since this interview with Taki Hasegawa, Postman also released a case study showcasing how The Trevor Project uses the Postman API Platform to provide faster onboarding with APIs, drive cross-team collaboration, and enhance their approach to API testing. When you pair API innovation with the AI innovation coming out of The Trevor Project, it makes for a pretty compelling road map of how technology can leave a positive mark on how our world works. Taki shared with me how they are continuing to iterate on their technology through the relationships they’ve established, and with the wealth of opportunities for individuals and companies to get involved, I’m guessing that we’ll continue to see some interesting AI and API capabilities emerge to help strengthen the LGBTQ community.

You can tune in and subscribe to the Breaking Changes podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Amazon Music, or watch it on YouTube for more details.

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