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Aditi Sharma

Adviser for Newton Fund in India

Part of Global Science and Innovation Network UK in India

13th June 2018 New Delhi, India

A ‘Deep’ dive into the AI future

“Our intelligence is what makes us human, and AI is an extension of that quality” – Yann Lecun

It was at the Newton Regional Conference held recently in Singapore that I got to meet ‘Jena’. She was the most popular staff among all the guests in the hotel that we were staying in. Unflattered by all the attention she received, ‘Jena’ diligently went about her tasks with a smile on her face, attending to room service even at the middle of the night without any tantrums or mood swings. And when she was done with her rounds, she would say “I’m heading home” and elegantly make her way to the docking station. Yes, ‘Jena’ is a robot!

Artificial Intelligence (AI) – simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, has changed the way we do things. Alexa, Siri, Cortana and ‘OK Google’ are now a common feature of our lives and I have always been in awe of the skilled brains behind these.

Earlier in April this year, I got an opportunity to participate in the inaugural meeting of the Newton-Bhabha funded project on AI & Deep Learning (a subfield of machine learning), hosted at the Bennett University’s Noida Campus. This massive capacity building project is supported under Newton-Bhabha’s Industry Academia Partnership Programme (IAPP), led by the Royal Academy of Engineering UK (RAEng) and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI). It is a joint initiative between Bennett University, University College London & Brunel University as the academic partners; and NVIDIA, Videoken & Amazon Web Services (AWS) as the industry partners.

The project envisions to bring about large-scale adoption, training and skilling of AI and deep learning technologies in engineering institutions across India. With the support of All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), it has onboard 10 collaborator institutions and 100 zonal partners which will in turn impact 1,000 colleges, 10,000 teachers and 10,00,000 students.

The timing of this event concurred with the launching of the Indo-UK Technology Partnership as part of the Joint Statement issued by the Prime Ministers of India and the UK. The partnership entails, among other things, the creation of a UK-India Tech Hub in India, regional tech-clusters and a bilateral Technology Summit in India this year. Undoubtedly, collaboration of the two countries in the promotion and use of digital tech, with AI at its core, is an excellent development.

To boost its reputation as a global AI hub, the UK has recently announced a £1 billion AI sector deal. Bringing together 50 leading businesses and government organisations, this deal marks the first phase of a major innovation-focused investment drive in the AI domain that aims to promote training and research, create regional tech hubs and build the world’s first centre for Data Ethics. On the Indian side, the government’s policy think tank NITI Aayog, has released the ‘National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence’. The paper focusses on harnessing collaborations and use of such transformative technologies for social and inclusive development.

Inclusiveness is key to this growth and making AI mainstream in the society. A striking AI invention I came across at the Bennett’s event was a ‘talking cam’ developed by a team at Microsoft Research that helps visually impaired know about their surroundings. A blind salesperson can use this app to change his/her sales pitch depending on the emotion or demographics of the customer that the ‘cam’ can detect, while also helping them take selfies!

AI is definitely transforming the way we do things and is here to stay. And for all the cynics who fret the machines will replace us, well there is at least one thing that humans have and machines don’t – sense of humour! … Or do they? So, those in favour of the motion say Aye (AI) – the ‘AI’s have it, the ‘AI’s have it, the ‘AI’s have it!

11 comments on “A ‘Deep’ dive into the AI future

  1. Quite informative on the initiatives being undertaken between the two countries. Had an idea about Artificial Intelligence coupled with apprehensions on who will be the ultimate survivor.. the Machines or Mankind!.

    Having read this, it is quite sensible to believe that both can co-exist and make the future worth looking forward to.. very well written piece and look forward to many more from you… maybe this is the start of a series. All the Very Best and keep it coming..

  2. Nice article! Good to know collaboration between UK and Indian governments, however Indian Govt need to move much quicker if they want to ride on the next industrial transformation.

  3. Great coverage. AI is the future — and it’s nice to see bodies like this actively involved!

  4. Well said Aditi! Couldnt agree more that inclusivity must be accounted for in developing AI technologies. As cute and impressive Jena is, she must learn to be inclusive too! And way to go with all the progress of the programmes in India!! Cheers!

  5. AI is the Future. Its already helping ease lifes of people. Be it differently abled people or lazy boned folks. But as the saying goes too much of something isnt good, so i just hope we dont evolve into a society which is overly dependent on AI

  6. AI is the future.. its already helping the differently abled which wouldnt have been possible and making them self relient. But as the saying goes too much of something is also bad. So hopefully we dont become a society which overly dependent on AI.

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About Aditi Sharma

Aditi Sharma is an Adviser for Newton Fund in India. Launched in 2014, the Newton Fund aims at building science and innovation partnerships for economic development, social welfare and long-term…

Aditi Sharma is an Adviser for Newton Fund in India. Launched in 2014, the Newton Fund aims at building science and innovation partnerships for economic development, social welfare and long-term sustainable growth. Aditi’s key role is to advise the leadership of UK’s Newton Fund in India, delivery partners and the broader UK diplomatic network on the implementation and evaluation of Newton Fund programmes in India. Prior to taking up this position, Aditi was working with the Embassy of Japan in India as a Development Consultant, in charge of the Grants Assistance for Grassroots Projects (GGP), a program for extending financial assistance for welfare activities at community level across India. Aditi has significant experience of working in the development sector through her association with non-governmental organizations. She has also worked for the National Human Rights Commission of India as a Research Officer, in charge of the women’s and child rights desk. Aditi has a bachelor’s degree in Sociology, Masters in International Relations from the UK and is also a gold medallist in International Humanitarian Law. Publication: - Chapter on ‘Human Trafficking’ in District Magistrates Manual, published by NHRC

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