Interview with Antonio Rotolo – Ludwig

Aviva Zacks
Aviva Zacks Cybersecurity Expert and Writer
Aviva Zacks Aviva Zacks Cybersecurity Expert and Writer

Aviva Zacks of Safety Detectives recently sat down with Antonio Rotolo, Co-Founder and CEO of Ludwig. She asked him how AI is changing our lives.

Safety Detectives: What motivated you to start your company?

Antonio Rotolo: If English is supposed to be the language of our planet, then it should belong to everybody and not only to those born in English-speaking countries. We started Ludwig to give everybody in the world the same opportunity to communicate.

Let’s take research and academia as an example. Writing in perfect English is indeed a fundamental requirement for anyone who wants to succeed in a scientific career: the main goal of any scholar is that of writing a number of scientific papers to advance in their career and to write good papers you need to get funded, and so you have to write research projects… and to write a good project you need to establish connections, often by sending emails. This can be quite challenging for non-native speakers of English. With Ludwig, we help people express and share their ideas fluently and with confidence, and as a consequence to progress in their careers and life.

I know how difficult it is because I confronted myself with English writing in my previous life as a university researcher. In fact, my childhood dream was that of becoming a professor of Archaeology (and after two MA degrees, a Ph.D., and a few postdocs, I got pretty close to making it happen), then one postdoc at MIT was an eye-opening experience that made me reset my goals and to abruptly change my career path. At MIT, I decided I wanted to become an entrepreneur and solve the English writing problem once and for all. Together with my co-founders Roberta Pellegrino and Federico Papa (both of them former researchers that shared the same difficulty) we decided to start Ludwig.

SD: Tell me about your service.

AR: We define Ludwig as a sentence search engine for the English language. When searching on Ludwig, users find several example sentences taken from reliable sources, such as encyclopedias, scientific journals, or newspapers, that help them find the right words to express their ideas. If you are wondering whether you have chosen the right word or your sentences sound clear enough, you can compare what you have written with the instances provided by Ludwig.

Ludwig, the name of our service, is a tribute to Ludwig Wittgenstein, the father of the Philosophy of Language who used to say that the “limits of our language are the limits of our world”. Our world is actually limited by how we are able to express ourselves.

SD: What makes your company unique?

AR: Differently from other writing tools, we were the first to shift the focus from empowering the algorithm to “empowering the writer”. We give our users the right pieces of information to make an informed decision on how they would like to express themselves.
With Ludwig, the user is not passively receiving corrections from an algorithm that points out (alleged) grammar mistakes. With Ludwig, the user is active in the process and is actively learning new words and expressions and ultimately how to write better.

SD: How is AI changing our lives?

AR: Whether we like it or not, AI plays an increasingly important role in our lives. Deep Learning and Deep Neural Networks are doing incredible things in the field of Computational Linguistics (i.e. the way computers understand and express human languages) and yet, a perfect understanding of human languages by machines is not something that is going to happen any time soon.

The task of disambiguating human communication (which is ambiguous by definition) with the perfect algorithm is like trying to empty the ocean with a spoon. I think that rather we should embrace the ambiguity characterizing any natural human language and build AI technologies that will help us in making better-informed decisions. As mentioned above, the real goal of technology should be that of empowering human beings, rather than creating perfect algorithms.

SD: How is the pandemic affecting your industry?

AR: Since we are an online service, Ludwig’s business wasn’t directly affected by the pandemic but our lives were. At Ludwig, we believe that science, a sense of community, and individual responsibility are key to winning the fight against COVID-19.

Following a request from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, a team of top research leaders across tech, academia, and government joined to build the most extensive machine-readable Coronavirus literature collection for data and text mining. We decided to give our help with our means and technology and used that data to create LIA COVID-19, a sentence search engine specifically meant to help researchers, medical doctors, biologists, virologists, find Covid-19 related scientific papers with ease.

About the Author
Aviva Zacks
Aviva Zacks
Cybersecurity Expert and Writer

About the Author

Aviva Zacks is a content manager, writer, editor, and really good baker. When she's not working, she enjoys reading on her porch swing with a cup of decaf.

Leave a Comment