Biased AI Systems Can Lead to Unfair, Discriminatory Outcomes

Vivek Wadhwa

Philanthropist and social entrepreneur Vivek Wadhwa foresees a paradigm shift in education driven by emerging technologies in a brief yet compelling exchange with Education Post’s Prabhav Anand. From challenges in prestigious institutions to the impact of self-driving cars, this interview offers a succinct glimpse into the future of learning.

Question QYour work spans diverse fields such as robotics, artificial intelligence, and 3D printing. How do you see these technologies shaping the future of education, and what role do you think they will play in revolutionizing learning methods?

Education is about to change as much as every other field because these exponential technologies are converging and making the impossible possible. In my book, Driver in the Driverless Car, I wrote an entire chapter about how learning will be transformed from the present models, which are based on teaching students to conform and behave like factory workers to the traditional guru-shishya model in which each student receives personal training. AI will make this possible by using sensors to detect the interests of the student and adapt the learning model to his or her needs. Virtual reality will take us into new realms and let us experience new lessons.

Question Q

You’ve been associated with prestigious institutions like Harvard Law School and Carnegie Mellon University. How can these institutions adapt to the changing technological landscape to ensure they provide cutting-edge education to students?

Unfortunately, the universities are the slowest to adapt to change because they have tenured faculty who are so secure in their jobs that they don’t worry about how they will become obsolete. Universities need to rapidly adapt to change or they will become its casualty, other than the most prestigious institutions, which students will attend because of the branding, most education will not be done at universities anymore. This is because new methods of learning are rapidly becoming a reality.

Question Q

Your book Driver in the Driverless Car explores the future of autonomous vehicles. In what ways do you think self-driving cars will impact our cities and societies, especially concerning education and accessibility?

Human drivers will go the way of horses, they will be banned from our roads and relegated to special areas where they can roam. Human beings are dangerous, they make mistakes, get distracted, lose their tempers, and do really stupid things. Autonomous vehicles will be safer and better drivers.

Question Q

As a fellow at Stanford Law School and UC Berkeley, you’ve delved into the legal aspects of emerging technologies. What legal challenges do you foresee with the rapid advancement of artificial intelligence, and how can these challenges be addressed to ensure ethical and responsible AI development?

AI poses a number of legal challenges, including bias, privacy, intellectual property, and other issues such as liability and regulation. AI systems can be biased, leading to unfair and discriminatory outcomes. AI systems collect and process vast amounts of data, raising concerns about how this data is used and stored. It is unclear who owns the copyright and patent rights to AI-generated works. This is why I am very keen on India developing these AI systems, it will do so in a more ethical and balanced way than Silicon Valley will.

Question Q

In your book Innovating Women, you discuss the role of women in technology and innovation. How can we encourage more women to pursue careers in STEM fields, and why is diversity crucial for the future of technology and education?

Innovating Women argues that women are essential to driving innovation and creating jobs, and that their contributions to innovation are often overlooked. Women face challenges in innovation, such as gender bias, lack of access to funding, and the need to balance work and family life. However, women are also more likely to be collaborative and inclusive in their approach to innovation, and more likely to focus on solving real-world problems. Women are, without doubt, the key to driving innovation in the 21st century.

How can we encourage more women? By educating girls and boys about the importance of STEM fields from a young age; providing girls with more role models in STEM fields; creating supportive environments for girls and women in STEM fields; addressing the gender gap in STEM education and employment, and changing the way that we think about STEM fields to make them more inclusive and welcoming.

Question Q

Silicon Valley is synonymous with innovation. How can other regions and countries replicate Silicon Valley’s success in fostering innovation and entrepreneurship, especially in the context of education and skill development?

The following factors are essential for creating a thriving innovation ecosystem: A strong culture of entrepreneurship and risk-taking; access to capital; a supportive government and regulatory environment; a highly skilled workforce. Education and skill development are essential for fostering innovation and entrepreneurship. Students should be taught to think critically and creatively, and to solve problems. They should also be taught about the latest technologies and trends and be provided with opportunities to gain real-world experience. This could include internships, apprenticeships, and hackathons.

Question Q

You’ve been a globally syndicated columnist for The Washington Post. In your opinion, what is the role of media and journalism in educating the public about complex technological advancements, and how can media platforms like ours contribute effectively?

The media is completely failing in this because it is focusing more on money-making with clicks than providing accurate and useful content. The focus has to be on educating and inspiring, not making money

Question Q

Your experience as an entrepreneur is noteworthy. How can aspiring entrepreneurs leverage emerging technologies to create impactful educational startups, and what advice do you have for them in navigating the challenges of the startup landscape?

Entrepreneurs need to look forward and master emerging technologies such as AI, sensors, and virtual reality. Assume these will be inexpensive and powerful, they should find ways of using these to educate and inspires.

Question Q

You’ve explored innovative methods like breath analysis for disease detection. Could you elaborate on how this technology works and discuss its potential advantages and limitations, particularly in early cancer detection?

The technology uses breakthroughs in ionizing organic compounds to turn these into light signatures, which can be recognized using machine learning. So far, we know we can detect the periodic elements and volatile organic compounds in fluids such as water, urine, and blood as well as in breath. This means we can detect basic health anomalies and diseases such as tuberculosis. Our challenge over the next few months is to recognize protein signatures and detect cancers and other diseases. If we can do this, we will enable a revolution in medical diagnostics because the cost of doing the most advanced tests will be close to zero. My dream is to offer comprehensive health screening to the poor for a nominal cost of Rs. 100, so that they can improve their lifestyles and habits rather than suffering and having to spend their life savings on medicines.


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