At ASEI’s 2021 AI Summit, AI For Social Good, Data & Ethics Highlighted

The American Society of Engineers of Indian Origin (ASEI) convened an AI Summit with a number of researchers, authors, speakers and experts covering Artificial Intelligence  from multiple perspectives: Augmented Intelligence with Data, AI/ML Solutions for social benefit and Artificial Intelligence Applications for the enterprise & AI Ethics on April 24th, 2021.

Opening the summit, Divya Ashok, who serves as VP of Innovation and Strategy at Salesforce, introduced the AI Summit Chair Piyush Malik who has been working in the Data & AI domain for over 25 years, currently as the Senior Vice President at SpringML, a Google partner startup in Silicon Valley. Piyush gave a bird’s eye view of the AI landscape, the real life and enterprise application opportunities as well as set the stage for the plenary segment where the theme was AI for Society. He recognized  the  contributions of AI pioneer technologists and Turing awardees over the past 7 decades including Prof  Raj Reddy, the first Asian and the only Indian origin person to have won the Nobel prize of computing (i.e. Turing Award for AI) in 1994 long before the current euphoria over AI was commonplace.

  Vilas Dhar,  President and Trustee of the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation (PJMF), gave a message of support from PJMF to ASEI as we work towards our shared vision for AI – powered yet human-centric ethical endeavor for the benefit of society as we  explore the future of meaningful work through youth empowerment. PJMF is a 21st century philanthropy advancing artificial intelligence (AI) and data solutions to create a thriving, equitable, and sustainable future for all. Vilas, a biomedical engineer by initial training is an entrepreneur, technologist, and human rights advocate with a lifelong commitment to creating more robust, human-centered social institutions. His message of support for AI for social benefit  and data philanthropy fostered through interactions with ASEI leadership was complemented by the next speaker Dr Sundar Sundareshwaran, AI Fellow at the World Economic Forum (WEF) where PJMF is a supporter.

At WEF, Dr Sundar is co-creating a governance framework with a multi-stakeholder community for the use of Chatbots in healthcare amongst other initiatives which he talked about in detail having an impact in the COVID era.  Sundar  represents Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings Corporation in his role at WEF’s Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. He  is a seasoned technologist with research, development, P&L and executive leadership experience. With a Master’s degree in Natural Language Understanding and a PhD in Computer Vision, Sundar has made numerous research contributions in robotics, neural networks, human computer interaction, virtual/augmented reality and autonomous vehicles. His plenary talk at the AI summit gave a broader view of the Policy impact AI is having at the World stage and he welcomed the opportunity for ASEI members to join hands in making the world a better place through fair use of AI rather than fearing from it. On behalf of ASEI, Piyush portrayed the excitement of being able to work with evangelists, policymakers, data and AI professionals and social changemakers at the WEF and PJMF.

In the next section of the summit three  authors spoke about their respective work and the impact each of them are having in the field of AI.  Anyone who has tried to learn GCP or machine learning with Google technologies would have seen Dr Valiappa (Lak) Lakshmanan  in action via his Coursera lessons and courses. Lak as he is popularly known, serves as the Director for Data Analytics and AI Solutions at  Google Cloud. Previously as a Director at the Climate Corporation, he led a team of data scientists building probabilistic estimates of past, current and future weather. Currently with his team he  builds software solutions for business problems using Google Cloud’s data analytics and machine learning products but he is very passionate about AI for Social good on which he spoke at length. Real world proof points and examples in the field of flood control, agriculture, healthcare etc were shared with the summit audience which resulted in a lot of interactive chats and Q&A.

ASEI Michigan chapter president Muthu Sivanantham introduced and facilitated discussion with the next two speakers.  Dr Raj Ramesh, a TEDx speaker who happens to have a doctorate in AI was the next author to speak. He has broad experience with digital transformation and helps  organizations bring together complementary strengths of machines and humans to effect grand change.  His talk featuring interesting doodles and interactive audience participation surveys was patterned on his recent book, “AI & You” and he advised how to co-exist with machines by sharing  how to think, thrive, and transform in an AI driven future.

“AI will present a lot of opportunities in the future.  Sure, some jobs will be replaced, but each of us can leverage our knowledge, passion, and experience to position ourselves at the forefront of this cognitive revolution” – Dr Raj Ramesh at the ASEI AI Summit

The next speaker Ashish Bansal with his cool demeanour brought to light an example of how rubber meets the road in AI though Models in Natural Language Processing. NLP is a topic of increasing attention given the recent popularity of Open AI’s GPT3 model and discussions of “AI creating AI”. Ashish has previously worked in AI/ML  & Recommendation systems  for Twitter and Capital One and currently is a Director at  Twitch. His recent book Natural Language Processing with Tensorflow was discussed in brief as well.

Final section of the AI Summit was the “Women in Data & AI” segment facilitated  by Vatsala Upadhya and featured a lively and colorful “Ethics in AI” discussion between  Dr Sindhu Joseph, CEO of Cognicor with 6 Patents in AI, and Bala Sahejpal, SVP at DataRobot with Piyanka Jain, President and CEO of Aryng moderating

Issues of bias, reproducibility , transparency and equity and inclusion in  data and AI from people of color perspective was discussed as well as importance of governance and building checks and balances in the development and testing of AI systems was deliberated

Bala is an accomplished leader with over 25 years of experience and a proven ability in leading cross functional global teams for building Data and Analytics solutions delivering enterprise success while securing multimillion-dollar savings for diverse business functions. She shared what made her interested in AI infused  automation and drove her towards joining DataRobot after stints at Cisco/Appdynamics, Juniper and Netapp.

Piyanka has two Master’s degrees, with her thesis involving applied mathematics and statistics. Before founding Aryng, she was the Head of Business Analytics at PayPal-North America.She happens to be a bestselling author of “Behind every Good Decision”  and a regular contributor to Forbes, HBR, InsideHR, TDWI, Experian, Modern Workplace, Predictive Analytics World, etc. Her efforts over the years have driven $1b+ in business impact for her clients. Injecting her 20+ years of Data & Analytics experience during the panel discussion, she said “As AI becomes more prevalent, AI literacy for leaders and AI governance are two ‘must-haves’ to truly capitalize on the power of AI to drive significant business value while staying clear of AI fiasco like Tay”

Recounting the challenges that are faced in the adoption of ethical AI, Dr. Sindhu Joseph, founder, and CEO of CogniCor, which provides a digital assistant platform for financial services, said – “AI is not just scaling solutions, but amplifying the historic biases embedded in our society. Given that the most popular branch of AI namely ML/DL learns its models from historic observations, our inherent biases make their way into the data sets, making a small, select, and often homogeneous group of developers, organizations as guardians of fairness.”

 This session underscored the need for diversity in organizations and in startups developing AI algorithms and attention and investment in branches of AI that have the potential to bring about fairness.

The interactive Q&A sessions and chat texts continued to buzz throughout the nearly 4 hour conference with an engaged audience. The most interesting audience questions and some early bird participants won 10 books courtesy the three  authors and publishers. Proposing the vote of thanks, Raju Sreewastava, CEO of Big Data Trunk announced the list of winners.

The AI Summit showed the attendees the depth of AI/ML experience and thought leadership amongst Indian diaspora & ASEI members and gave a glimpse of the richness of  its collaborations with national and international professional bodies.

As is evident from recent events and newsletters, ASEI has had a fantastic 2021 so far with a large number of activities and new programmes such as MentorConnect, UniversityConnect and YouthPrograms to serve its members’ interests and build the next generation of engineers and technologists.

The American Society of Engineers of Indian Origin (ASEI) is a not-for-profitorganization that provides a platform for networking, career advancement,community service, mentoring and technology exchange for professionals,students and businesses in the United States and abroad. Members are guidedby several objectives, including the creation of an open, inclusive, andtransparent organization; providing positive role models, awarding scholarships,and remaining socially responsible. ASEI was founded in 1983 in Detroit,Michigan by a handful of visionaries. Today, the organization  has active chaptersin Michigan, Southern California, Silicon Valley, San Diego, and Washington, DC with more in the pipeline.

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