At a time when there are apprehensions being raised about the threat that artificial intelligence (AI) may pose to jobs in general and skilled manpower in particular, there is at least one voice which speaks of a positive outcome of the applications of AI. It belongs to Vishal Sikka, the former CEO of Infosys who had to leave the organization under not so pleasant circumstances. He is in fact working on an AI venture that uses technology to enhance human creativity.
His comments came in a speech he delivered in the Silicon Valley in an event organized by TiE. According to Sikka, the current level of awareness about AI is very low and in terms of the number of people who can use machine learning tools, it is less than 250,000.
It is worth recalling here that Sikka had initiated many projects when he was heading Infosys and had tried to break away from the conventional approach to business that the company had come to adopt. Many feel it was this attempt by Sikka to lay emphasis on AI and related work within the company that put him directly at loggerheads with Narayana Murthy and his eventual exit from Infosys.
There was the driverless cart that was built within the company to get the young engineers working in the IT major to evince interest in the project and the technology behind it. Similarly, a special funding avenue, to the extent of $62 million, was also created to spur innovation in technologies like IoT, automation and drones if startups were to come up in these areas.
Even before this latest speech, Vishal Sikka has been quite forthright about his views on AI and its future and it is quite opposite to what the cynics say, particularly about taking away the tech jobs. He says the cycle being currently explored in this field is not the end in itself and there will be another round of innovations built around the AI application and that is possibly what is engaging him in his new venture and he strongly feels that will have a far greater impact and a positive one. He calls these â€˜hype cyclesâ€™.
Among other comments by Sikka in this context, he believes China has done very well for itself, with better use of the AI technology and development of relevant skills to put the applications to productive use. And when it comes to India, he reiterates that there is a need to educate and train the Indian manpower to adapt to the new technologies and not allow themselves to be subsumed by the power of the technology itself. Sectors like healthcare, supply chain management, and retail could use AI and benefit and the business in India for AI related products/services could be as high a $957 billion, in another 15 to 17 years.