AI Guru Says AI Should Help Humanity, Not Destroy It | Artificial intelligence

Dr. Ayesha Khanna sees artificial intelligence as a way to help humanity, not harm it, reports in an extensive profile on the star. Khanna is a co-founder and CEO of ADDO , an artificial solutions firm and incubator, and an advisor on multiple smart city and fintech projects for global corporations and governments.

While many may be frightened by the digital revolutions, there’s no need to be, says Khanna. As an example, she cites a project she works on for the government of Dubai. The government wanted to create a one-stop shop, integrating more than 50 government agencies, for all its services where citizens could pay tolls, permits and fines on a single platform. The project failed for a simple reason: no one asked the people what they wanted, and very few used the new platform.

Dr. Khanna changed that. Her firm redesigned the platform, making it human-centric – resembling Facebook or Netflix in its usability. And the people came.

“Netflix and Google know how to personalise experiences,” she says. “Give people things they find interesting. That should always be the approach – and it’s not just for the digital route, but also the way you build housing, apartments and institutions.” Khanna added that technology has to give us what we want – what’s relevant to us, makes us more productive, or increases our quality of life.

Dr. Khanna, who was born in Lahore, Pakistan, took a state exam in the early 1990s that allowed her to go to Harvard to study economics. Her interest in helping humanity was strong even then: for summer holidays, she volunteered at Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission. She then received a master’s degree at Columbia University in operations management, and worked as a software engineer in New York. By mid-2000s, she was working in algorithmic trading and risk management systems.

When the market collapsed, Khanna felt personally responsible. “Even if I had not built those models, I was a part of the system,” she says. It had been a pivotal moment in her career, bringing her to the realisation that even though the financial products might be technologically evolved, there was no point if the outcome was not humane.

Dr. Ayesha Khanna co-founder and CEO of ADDO AI, an artificial solutions firm and incubator.

Khanna returned to school, this time receiving a doctorate from the London School of Economics, and focusing on information systems and innovation. Her thesis on smart cities had the underlying contention that smart cities had to put humans first. And after her move to Singapore, her career in the field of AI took off. Singapore is the smartest city in the world, and it also is the leading info-state, leveraging its knowledge and technology.

Singapore provided the perfect platform for Khanna to pursue her interests. “I’m interested in anything that improves the life of the urban emerging middle class. It could be transportation, financial inclusion or the personalisation of citizen servicing – all these different techniques using AI point to a lower cost of service, higher quality of life and the democratisation of access to services they didn’t have before.”

In addition to her firm, Khanna started 21C (21st Century) Girls, a charity that teaches school girls coding and provides workshops for polytechnic students. “I want to give girls the creative confidence to participate in any company using AI. I want them to be bold enough to collaborate and question the method,” says Khanna. “I don’t have a problem with people not being wealthy, but I do have a problem with people having unequal access to things.”

The adoption of AI is not just for those who are specialists, says Khanna. “If you can learn enough so that you can collaborate with the highly technical people working in AI, then together with the shared knowledge, it will move your company to being more successful.”

Khanna sees the fears of AI as education problems, and says that her aim now is to promote her firm globally and help companies and cities understand what is on offer as a new industrial revolution begins to unfold. Her company ADDO AI is about to launch in Silicon Valley, and Khanna wants to do more writing on smart cities and the human benefits of AI. She also wants to interest more women in coding and create an even playing field that is blind to age, gender and geography.

Among her current projects is the development of the first global online AI finance course, which has already been accepted by prominent banks in Singapore as an educational tool.

Her words of wisdom to those who want to work in artificial intelligence are these: “Don’t shrink back when this new wave comes. Just remember: you are the real driver. You have so much to offer the AI world.”

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