Jeremy Howard — The Simple but Profound Insight Behind Diffusion

Jeremy Howard — The Simple but Profound Insight Behind Diffusion

Jeremy Howard is a co-founder of, the non-profit research group behind the popular massive open online course “Practical Deep Learning for Coders”, and the open source deep learning library “fastai”.

Jeremy is also a co-founder of #Masks4All, a global volunteer organization founded in March 2020 that advocated for the public adoption of homemade face masks in order to help slow the spread of COVID-19. His Washington Post article “Simple DIY masks could help flatten the curve.” went viral in late March/early April 2020, and is associated with the U.S CDC’s change in guidance a few days later to recommend wearing masks in public.

In this episode, Jeremy explains how diffusion works and how individuals with limited compute budgets can engage meaningfully with large, state-of-the-art models. Then, as our first-ever repeat guest on Gradient Dissent, Jeremy revisits a previous conversation with Lukas on Python vs. Julia for machine learning.

Finally, Jeremy shares his perspective on the early days of COVID-19, and what his experience as one of the earliest and most high-profile advocates for widespread mask-wearing was like.

Show notes (transcript and links):

⏳ Timestamps:

0:00 Intro

1:06 Diffusion and generative models

14:40 Engaging with large models meaningfully

20:30 Jeremy’s thoughts on Stable Diffusion and OpenAI

26:38 Prompt engineering and large language models

32:00 Revisiting Julia vs. Python

40:22 Jeremy’s science advocacy during early COVID days

1:01:03 Researching how to improve children’s education

1:07:43 The importance of executive buy-in

1:11:34 Outro

1:12:02 Bonus: Weights & Biases

📝 Links

📍 Jeremy’s previous Gradient Dissent episode (8/25/2022):

📍 “Simple DIY masks could help flatten the curve. We should all wear them in public.”, Jeremy’s viral Washington Post article:

📍 “An evidence review of face masks against COVID-19” (Howard et al., 2021), one of the first peer-reviewed papers on the effectiveness of wearing masks:

📍 Jeremy’s Twitter thread summary of “An evidence review of face masks against COVID-19”:

📍 Read more about Jeremy’s mask-wearing advocacy:

Connect with Jeremy and

📍 Jeremy on Twitter:

📍 on Twitter:

📍 Jeremy on LinkedIn:

💬 Host: Lukas Biewald

📹 Producers: Riley Fields, Angelica Pan