Forbes India has been writing on artificial intelligence (AI) for some time now, but it took a 12-year-old to make me realise how difficult it is to demystify it when he popped the question: “Dad, what’s the big deal about AI, our teacher’s talking about it in school.”
I hummed and hawed, dropped a few jargons like algorithms and data structures, text mining, speech mining... he looked back at me with an expression that, let’s just say, didn’t call for any facial recognition software to conclude that he was confused. The irony may be is that he is immersed in a world of AI and bots, courtesy his online games.
For all the current hoopla, AI is not a new-fangled notion. My first memory of a machine simulating human intelligence goes back to the late 90s when IBM developed a supercomputer called Deep Blue to take on chess World Champion Garry Kasparov. Deep Blue won.
Much has happened in the AI universe in the past quarter of a century, and I was lucky for a book that landed on my table around the time the AI question was dropped. One of them is AI for You: The New Game Changer (Bloomsbury India, 2022), by technologists Shalini Kapoor and Sameep Mehta.
I dived into it, looking for answers. I saw familiar questions: What is AI—is it augmented intelligence, or autonomous intelligence, or assisted intelligence? The answer may lie in this excerpt: “Some enterprises believe any form of an analytics system means that they have an AI system in place without having collected a shred of data. Some people believe that a system that identifies cancer is AI, while the chatbot they have developed to manage queries is not an example of AI.”
I realised I wasn’t the only one confused about AI. Most companies and CXOs are enamoured of AI, they just don’t know where to begin, how to, crucially, get their workforce to adopt it. How should they go about creating an AI mindset, should it be part of their core strategy?
Kapoor and Mehta attempt to sort out the bewilderment in perhaps the best possible manner, with real-world examples: Max Life Insurance using AI to improve customer experience and reduce cost of operations; HealthifyMe offering nutrition and diet plans through an AI system; Niramai.ai using AI to detect breast cancer in a non-invasive and radiation-free method, among many others.
In pretty much the same vein, the Forbes India AI Special this fortnight delves into AI tech and use cases that may be an eye-opener for those organisations wondering how to embark on their AI journey. Naini Thaker identifies a handful of startups that are attempting to transform customer experiences and industry outcomes even as they help reduce costs and bring in efficiencies.
For instance, there’s Myelin Foundry, which has developed a technology that can execute operations at the edge of a network—close to where the data is created, as opposed to a centralised cloud computing facility—thereby helping reduce turnaround times. Co-founder Gopichand Katragadda, a former group CTO at Tata Sons, started Myelin with team member Ganesh Suryananaryanan in 2019. “We had an inkling that AI was going to be the next big thing,” Katragadda tells Thaker.
It’s certainly going in that direction, but along with it come a whole host of fears—of being replaced by machines, of being more dangerous than nuclear warheads (so believes Elon Musk) and hence the need for regulation, the fear of bias creeping into algorithms. From use cases—how AI is changing weather forecasting—to AI in academics to the risks, this issue has it all.
(This story appears in the 14 July, 2023 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)