AI Is Enabler And Not Detrimental, Says Arvind Purushothaman Of Virtusa Corp.

With over 21 years of industry experience, Arvind Purushothaman has been associated with planning and executing data management and analytics initiatives. Currently serving as SVP – Data and Analytics at Virtusa Corp., he has a comprehensive understanding of the IT industry best practices, technologies, architectures and emerging technologies. In this interaction, Purushothaman shares his views on how AI is affecting human lives.

Analytics India Magazine: What are some of the practical implementations of AI that have revolutionized the way humans are functioning?

Arvind Purushothaman: AI has simplified lot of business prospects and is revolutionizing how humans work. For instance, in a document reading AI is coming up with ways to understand the meaning of the document, and suggest actions to be taken based on its reading. AI is carrying out intelligent automations, and though the concept of AI has been there for long, we are seeing practical implementations only since last five years. AI is also providing contextual recommendation to clients. With the ability to improve data collection, their will be more improvements in AI offerings. Apart from banking, AI is prominently being used in retail, ecommerce in the form of recommendation engines which has improved significantly over the years. There is also a lot of sentiment analysis that is being done today. Also with every company there is some sort of chatbot associated. Then there is speech based assistance, image recognition, driverless vehicles, drones, and other applications. AI involved in more ways than we can think.

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AIM: How is AI affecting your life and work? What are some of the ways that you are personally using AI? Please elaborate on the use cases.

AP: Personally I use assistants such as Google Assistant to know information such as temperature, weather etc. Alexa is another affordable technology, that can carry interesting tasks. Chatbots and recommendation engines in areas such as banking and medical tests can also personally help me.

AIM: What are some of the ways that your company is adopting/providing AI services? Please highlight some use cases.

AP: Virtusa is a consulting and IT services company, and our focus is on consulting led technological services, helping clients with transformational programmes. We have 20,491 people around the globe and have clients in banking, financial services, insurance, healthcare, retail, life sciences and others. We build technology in association with Google, Amazon, Microsoft, to build domain specific platforms. For instance, we have a platform for banking that collects data and allows customers to innovate based on this platform. We work with data, provide AI service, define use cases and others. Similarly, for life sciences, manufacturing and other companies we are availing them with public data from various sources for them to innovate. We help companies innovate faster, and make processes faster using AI which reduces the overall amount of time, produces effective results and automates the processes.

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AIM: Will AI take away the creative thinking and downgrade the intellectual quotient of humans?

AP: I don’t think so. AI helps humans efficiently improve at their tasks. For instance, as mentioned above, in reading documents, to understand the context and take actions based on that, AI will reduce human efforts and not take away human thinking. The rules and programs that AI ultimately exhibit are built by humans with creative thinking. It will just reduce time to perform task and not take away human intellectual thinking. AI is enabler and not detrimental.

AIM: Many experts have warned against AI taking over every aspect of our lives. How true is their fear?

AP: The course of AI is quite unpredictable. On one hand, there are people such as Elon Musk who are talking about Cyborgs and AI ruling the world and creating unlikely conditions for humans. But based on what we are seeing today, I don’t think so it is very accurate. One thing is humans have something called sentimental memory such as emotional quotient, nostalgia, the ability to recall unrelated event, there is lot of data stored inside us somewhere. The ability for us to bring together these elements is unique for humans and is difficult to replicate. I wouldn’t say it is impossible but the path is extremely tough.

Also, if you look at humans they have the ability to make decisions, take actions, make judgments, among others, which is hard to replicate in machines. However smart machines become, they can’t process these emotions. Therefore, some fears may be true if AI is used in a malicious way to control life, but if you take that part away, I don’t think there is a need to fear AI.

AIM: How has been the adoption of AI in Indian scenario?

AP: As AI feeds on data, it requires good quality and large volumes of it. In India we have just started realizing the importance of centralized data collection and by collecting data from images, PPTs, cameras, identification numbers, and others, we have been able to collect lot of data. Given a diversity of languages, speech, demographic and other factors, we have the potential of collecting variety of data, which needs to be centralized to access it. Government has realized the importance of AI and is driving focus on it. Niti Aayog and other government bodies are realizing the importance of AI and bringing initiatives to boost its developments in India. Bringing course to work in ML, IoT and others, there is a visible push in this direction. I think these developments would help us in coming up with interesting use cases of AI. For instance, banks such as SBI, HDFC, ICICI banks are using it considerably, and we could do a lot more in healthcare, smart traffic management and others. If we are able to collect good quality data from initiatives such as Aadhar, it could solve problems for India.  

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