September 27, 2023
India can set a global example by using artificial intelligence for social good: Sunil Wadhwani – Times of India

After partition the Wadhwani family left Karachi and started a new life in India. Sunil, who was born five years after the family moved to Delhi, and his elder brother Romesh are now billionaire businessmen in the US. His interest in philanthropy and AI led him to establish the Wadhwani Institute for Artificial Intelligence in Mumbai. With the duo recently included in TIME’s list of ‘100 Most Influential People in AI’, The Sunday Times spoke to Sunil Wadhwani, 70, about the transformative potential of AI.

How was it for your brother and you to get a place on the TIME list?

For my brother Romesh and I, it was really a recognition of the Institute of Artificial Intelligence in India as well as our teams working in areas like public health, entrepreneurship, skills, training.

You both established India’s first AI research institute in 2018. What was the idea behind this?

Romesh and I were chatting a few years ago, and he was talking about how all these remarkable advancements in AI are being used for commercial purposes on a large scale by companies around the world. While there is nothing wrong with that, it is not going to improve the lives of the three or four billion people at the bottom of the pyramid. These are the people who really need help. We found very few people using AI for social good, so we decided that we would set up an institute in India to develop AI solutions in sectors like healthcare, education, agriculture etc. This will help people mainly from vulnerable communities to improve their quality of life.

Can you describe your approach and interventions?

First of all, we were very honored that Prime Minister Modi came to inaugurate our institute in 2018. He gave one of the most impressive speeches I’ve ever heard on the potential of artificial intelligence to truly transform lives by accelerating social evolution. His view and we also believe that while countries like the US and China have gone far ahead in implementing AI for commercial and other purposes, India can set a global example in implementing AI for social good. Is. So, when we started Wadhwani AI, first of all we had discussions with senior people in various ministries to identify very large potential use cases in healthcare or education that could be addressed by artificial intelligence. For example, TB is a high priority for the government, so we started talking to the health ministry about it. We are working on five solutions to help diagnose and treat TB. Along with maternal and infant mortality, we have AI applications in areas like how to detect high-risk pregnancies before delivery, who has these troublesome deliveries, and what complications may occur. When it comes to agriculture, 40% of crops grown globally are destroyed due to pests. We have developed a way for cotton farmers to determine if there are pests in their crop and what type of pesticide needs to be used.

In June, Sam Altman created a controversy when he doubted India’s ability to create basic AI models similar to OpenAI. How can India face this challenge?

Building basic AI models is very complex and resource-intensive. You need the key components, which is what is happening in India. You need a very strong research and development infrastructure in AI with government and private sector investment. Second, you need an educational infrastructure to train people in AI, machine learning and data science, which is also growing rapidly in India. Third, you need a strong computing infrastructure. You also need a strong data infrastructure with good quality data sets. The good news is that the Indian government has access to large data sets but obviously you have to be very careful about privacy and confidentiality.

As an entrepreneur you have seen a lot of ups and downs. Do you have any advice for young entrepreneurs?

My advice would be less than 10 words. And it’s like this: aim really high, work really hard and believe in yourself. Aim to solve big challenges. You have to work really hard and there is a high level of risk, which is why the third part is so important. You have to believe in yourself because obstacles, mistakes, changes in the external environment, and competition are always there. Entrepreneurs are often short of cash and only their self-confidence helps them move forward.

With pioneers like Geoffrey Hinton sounding the AI ​​alarm, how do we balance these potential risks of AI with its transformative potential?

As I mentioned, when PM Modi spoke at our inaugural ceremony, his main point was that the direction in which progress goes is determined by human intention. If the intention is bad then the outcome is also bad. Therefore, his aim was to focus on positivity and use it for the betterment of our nation. The flip side is that regulations are needed and governments around the world, including India, are discussing it. Of course, discussions will have to evolve, as will technology.


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