With 20 years of working experience in the tech space across US and India, Dipanjan Purkayastha established HyperXchange in February, 2016, which is a Kolkata-based O2O startup. He has focused equal parts of his career growing businesses and sales teams, as well as structuring large investment banking transactions. His previous corporate role was Vice President of Tech Mahindra. Dipanjan is also a guest faculty for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at leading institutions like IIT-Delhi and IIM-Calcutta. Analytics India Magazine caught up with Purkayastha to get his insights on how AI is affecting human lives.
AIM: What are some of the practical implementations of AI that have revolutionised the way humans are functioning?
DP: The machines haven’t taken over. Not yet, at least. However, they are slowly making their way into our lives, affecting how we live, work and entertain ourselves. From voice-powered personal assistants like Siri and Alexa, to more underlying and fundamental technologies such as behavioral algorithms, suggestive searches and self-driving vehicles boasting powerful predictive capabilities, there are several examples and applications of artificial intelligence in use today.
A true artificially-intelligent system is one that can learn on its own. We’re talking about neural networks like Google’s DeepMind, which can make connections and understand meanings without relying on pre-defined behavioural algorithms. True AI can improve on past iterations, getting smarter and more aware, allowing it to enhance its capabilities and its knowledge. While companies like Apple, Facebook and Tesla rollout ground-breaking updates and revolutionary changes to how we interact with machine-learning technology, many of us are still clueless on just how AI is being used today by businesses both big and small.
AIM: What are some of the AI-based products or services that you rely on the most?
DP: Amazon’s transactional AI is something that’s been in existence for quite some time, allowing it to make astronomical amounts of money online. With its algorithms refined more and more with each passing year, the company has gotten acutely smart at predicting just what we’re interested in purchasing based on our online behavior. While Amazon plans to ship products to us before we even know we need them, it hasn’t quite gotten there yet. But it’s most certainly on its horizons.
Netflix provides highly accurate predictive technology based on customer’s reactions to films. It analyses billions of records to suggest films that you might like based on your previous reactions and choices of films. This tech is getting smarter and smarter by the year as the dataset grows.
Pandora’s AI is quite possibly one of the most revolutionary techs that exists out there today. They call it their musical DNA. Based on 400 musical characteristics, each song is first manually analysed by a team of professional musicians based on this criteria, and the system has an incredible track record for recommending songs that would otherwise go unnoticed but that people inherently love.
AIM: What are some of the ways that your company is adopting/providing AI services? Please highlight some use cases.
DP: HyperXchange is a refurbished gadget marketplace – here we work extensively with AI to improve our diagnostic capabilities of older devices, and to appreciate user interaction with their ubiquitous smartphones. This knowledge, on one hand, helps us offer laser focused products and services to different user segments, and on the other, helps us predict our margins through an optimal spares management and refurbishment process.
AIM: What are the areas of life or employment where you would like AI to be more involved?
DP: I would like to see AI being used in these areas:
- Medical diagnosis: Complementing a doctor’s human intuition with the precision and completeness of AI could be one of the greatest revolutions in healthcare since hand-washing. The simple fact is that the human race has produced more overall understanding of human health than any one human brain can usefully contain, and AI are quickly starting to outperform even the best human docs. Even faced with a totally binary decision between all-human and all-AI care, in 10 years time, how many people will be willing to opt for the better bedside manner?
- Legal Advice: This makes a lot of sense: laws are supposed to be totally mechanical, so why couldn’t they be handled by a mechanical lawyer? The reality is that, for high-level lawyering, it’s precisely the ability to see around the rules that make a lawyer successful. Where AI could really change society, at a deep and fundamental level, is in providing half-decent defence to those who cannot afford adequate human representation. In many places, the public defence corps is an unmitigated disaster — but AI doesn’t get tired, or jaded, or immediately judgemental. They will provide an adequate legal defence to millions of people who currently do not receive one. Played out beyond the 10-year timeline, this could have some of the farthest-reaching implications of any entry on this list.
- Financial Services: Given how much money funds are investing in AI, there’s a certain irony in watching bankers get automated into unemployment. But the real win for the little guy will come when the AI really take over. Right now, the financial services sector has a lot to do with why the rich get richer — they can afford to hire more and better financial help to manage the money they have. With AI, especially open source fintech solutions, it could be possible to change personal finance to put it on a much more even playing field.
AIM: Will AI take away the creative thinking and downgrade the intellectual quotient of humans?
DP: This is my view:
– Will AI become more intelligent than humans?
Yes, with 100% probability in my view! Within 10–15 years, maybe.
– Can we stop AI from becoming more intelligent than us?
I think we cannot. It is our mission in this world to improve human health and the human condition. Progress continues moving forward. Machines that can cure us, make us live longer, send us farther and faster through space, perform our tedious tasks, free us from hard labor, fight our wars, explore and colonise space, etc. — all need to progress!
The by-product is that these machines will have to become more and more intelligent and also learn to decide more and more on their own.
– What will it do once it is intelligent?
It might explore the universe, and find purposes of its own. We cannot know for sure.
– What will it do with us?
That is the tough question! If a much more intelligent and capable being comes to our planet what would it do with us? I really do not know, it depends on its goals. But one thing is for sure: our world will have to change; and we will be exploited in some form. We can think in similar ways for an intelligent and highly capable AI.
– Is this what we want?
Evolution does not take into account individual thoughts, or the hopes and plans of one of many species, it operates on a global scale to maximise the use of the resources and extend the species into the future.
AIM: With voice-based assistants, facial recognition and other AI-based technology being embraced by all, is the user privacy and data being jeopardised?
DP: AI and machine learning interfaces have so seamlessly entrenched into our lives these days, we often don’t realise how exposed many of us have become. In a digitally meshed world, hackers are the demigods. They can come and go where they wish, and bring amazing happiness or inflict terrible pain on ordinary people, small businesses or even large corporations.
We have opened our lives to the digital windows of our phone/laptop cameras, the ever-listening ears of our digital assistants the constant tracking of our GPS and deep psychological profiling by our social media apps. The speed of technical innovation has become so fast, that regulations and fail-safes are always a step behind, giving rise to identity thefts, ransomware, digital blackmail, and even large-scale attacks on financial trading systems and government agencies.
AIM: How has been the adoption of AI in Indian scenario?
DP: India has been slow to follow US, Russia and China into the AI races. But like every other area, its sheer population size, lax regulatory environment and youth (India has one of the youngest population in the world) means we will probably see domestic usage leapfrog most of other countries over the next decade.
Large consumer platforms like Facebook or Jio have already triggered subliminal ML usage across tier II and tier III cities, helping these companies profile populations that have always defied explanation, potentially helping political parties and the likes to win elections and manage mass thinking.
AI use cases not permitted in developed countries might find also approvals here (think how mass clinical trials started here as a way to circumvent FDA regulations in the US), accelerating beta uses in different walks of life.
AIM: What are the changes in policies and infrastructure that you would like to see for a better adoption of AI?
DP: A stronger national digital backbone, with a faster and deeper implementation of technologies like 5G would help build the bandwidth and edge computing capability required for AI to work effectively. That is assuming most initial generation AI would be deployed from the cloud.
Ancient Post and Telegraph laws might need to be revamped to regulate AI usage, helping curb malicious usages like automated fake news/video creation and AI-based phishing attacks.