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AI Might Not Grow Out To Be A Threat As Long As It Remains One-Dimensional, Says George Mundassery Of Tech Mahindra

AI Might Not Grow Out To Be A Threat As Long As It Remains One-Dimensional, Says George Mundassery Of Tech Mahindra

Our next series of interaction for our theme is with George Mundassery who is the Global Head of AI & Automation at Tech Mahindra. The IT bellwether is at the forefront of emerging technologies and has adopted technologies such as artificial intelligence and analytics. In this interaction, Mundassery shares his views on how AI is impacting enterprises, how IT companies are leveraging AI to deliver better services, changes in policies and infrastructure, and more.

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AIM: What are the most transformative impact of AI on enterprises and society?

George Mundassery: Artificial Intelligence is transforming Enterprise automation by moving the needle from simple automation of repetitive tasks to aiding humans in the decision-making processes. Organisations that are leveraging AI at an enterprise level are reaping the desired benefits such as increasing operational efficiency, ability to make faster and more informed decisions and capability to innovate new products and services. Apart from IT industry, AI has already started to show impact of a high magnitude in functions across different industries such as finance, customer service, HR and Marketing. In strategic planning and corporate governance, AI’s impact is also expected, in equal proportion.

AI has also shown significant positive impact by improving customer experience, bridging the existing gap between brand reality and consumer expectation. Today AI has cut across functions and is weaving a massive societal transformation as well.  

AIM: What are the areas of life or employment where you would like AI to be more involved?

GM: AI is transforming our lives today in ways more than we can imagine. AI is being introduced and implemented across different sectors globally. Within the next few years, it will revolutionise every area of our life, including medicine. I am fully convinced that it will redesign healthcare completely – and for the better. I am certain that healthcare will be the lead industrial area of such a revolution and one of the major catalysts for change is going to be artificial intelligence. The present generation has the full potential to bring the right technology with the right stakeholders and we will change the future, and believe me it is not too far. IoT and Industry 4.0 initiatives will be major beneficiaries of the AI revolution. I also see intelligent industrial robots making the job of the industrial worker more productive. AI in conjunction with digital technologies like IOT, blockchain etc. has made Industry 4.0 a reality.

AIM: What are some of the practical implementations of AI that have revolutionised the way humans are functioning?

GM: In the last few years, artificial intelligence has been transforming the world in subtle ways.  Voice recognition in smartphones, chatbots, AI applications in healthcare, education, data analysis, virtual personal assistants are some of the examples of AI applications. Personalised medicines are already starting to make positive impact for some of the diseases. Governments and big corporations use 360 degree feedback systems to measure and find tune policy impacts on citizens and employees. Highly tuned, AI powered IoT systems help manage large systems like Smart cities and mega-scale industrial systems. Data synthesis systems working in tandem with Natural Language Generation systems provide human interpretable narrations to the complex data patterns enabling us to use data in ways not thought of before.In the coming years, technological advances will help AI technologies to work in a harmonious manner with humans thereby improving human-machine interaction.

AIM: What are some of the ways that Tech Mahindra is providing AI services? What are some of the AI products offered by the company?

GM: Automation is a key pillar of Tech Mahindra’s DAVID (Digital, Automation, Verticalization, Innovation and Disruption) strategy, which serves as the theme for all our solutions including that of digital transformation and solutions. Tech Mahindra drives Automation and AI using AQT.AQT stands for Automation, Quality and Time, signifying the strong correlation between the three: Automation will help improve Quality and reduce Time-to-market. AQT is a collection of Platforms, accelerators and tools to promote increased automation across our service lines and business processes. We recognize AI as the key enabler in the automation continuum from the task based automation approaches to the knowledge-driven paradigm.

Here are the AI powered platforms for various service functions:

  • Epsilon – helps in planning the overall SAP digital transformation journey through risk based testing in reducing development efforts.
  • ADOPT Agile DevOps Platform – built on the sound principles of continuous delivery, which focuses on establishing a flow, regular cadence and clean orchestration.
  • LitmusT – Platform for Intelligent Test Automation
  • FixStream Meridian™ – an advanced cloud operational analytics platform focused on business.  It builds actionable intelligence from the vast amount of data stored in the cloud application infrastructure
  • TACTiX – End-to-end Framework for Business Process Automation
AIM: How IT and Tech companies are leveraging AI to deliver better services?

GM: Companies use AI to create positive impact on both top-line and bottom-line metrics. Identification of personalised product or service offerings to customers, Next Best Action (NBA) recommendations are some of the examples of top-line use cases; automating repetitive tasks driven by AI, process discovery & automation are some of the examples of bottom-line use cases. AI helps employees to be more productive and to be able to devote more time to activities that require high level cognitive capabilities thereby helping strategic business priorities. AI also helps achieve better SLA adherence in customer service areas thereby increasing the overall customer satisfaction measures like NPS (Net Promoter Score).

  • We work with a big Telco client in building a customer churn reduction models
  • We are helping some of our customer build recommendation engines
  • We enable one of the big aerospace customers with their procurement processes by building an AI model that will help enable them to choose the best vendor for the given project requirement
  • We have built models that will predict anomalies in manufactured products in the Non-Destructive Testing processes.
  • Tech Mahindra’s TACTiX enables end-to-end automation of the IT and Infra operations from monitoring to self-remediation processes
AIM: Will AI take away the creative thinking and downgrade the intellectual quotient of humans?

GM: Current machine learning driven AI has the potential to exceed human performance in narrow, very specific areas. But scalable models of these approaches spanning across multiple decision domains to come up with something creative is simply not there. There is a unique element of creativity in all of us that machines are unlikely to replicate at least in the next decade or so. On the other hand, AI could instead act as a tool to increase human productivity and scope for thinking. The creativity of humans must coexist with the speed and efficiency of machines in order to constantly improve and grow a brand-consumer relationship.  By doing some of the narrow, specific things well with little input from us, AI will provide us with the unique opportunity to focus our high-level cognitive capacities to achieve things that we otherwise would not have been able to. Thus, working in harmony with AI-powered systems is an opportunity towards greater achievements, rather than something to fear about.

AIM: With voice based assistants, facial recognition and other AI based tech being rampant how will the user privacy and data be jeopardised?

GM: Potential of Data privacy issues in a data-driven economy cannot be overstated. AI is a prism that can bring out different facets of the data enabling us to build value from some of the otherwise dormant data dump. Definition of what facets can be brought out and used is the cause of much deserved concern.

Governments around the world are already issuing strict guidelines on data privacy and cyber security, and hence organisations need to take it more seriously and comply by the regulations. EU’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) for example provides a framework for privacy rights, data security, control, and governance. From the main privacy concern point of view, this law sets the bar quite high providing broad protections to the EU citizens. Data being such a ubiquitous term, any breach is viewed with the significant alarm and so companies are spending huge resources to build adequate protections around data from breaches and compliance.

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AIM: What are the changes in policies and infrastructure that you would like to see for a better adoption of AI?

GM: As the division of tasks between man and machine changes, policy makers need to look at few factors to assure safe transition to the brave new world.

  • Data privacy protection – As mentioned above, regulatory bodies have to look into ensuring that individuals’ privacy concerns are adequately addressed without completely impeding technology’s ability to extract insights from data.
  • Given how prevalent intelligent systems will be in the future, policy makers need to ensure the development of a code of ethics for the AI ecosystem. Explain ability of machine-produced decisions that have potential human impact are a must for the future for safe and confident adoption of AI.
  • Re-evaluate the type of knowledge and skills imparted to future generations. Successfully integrating human intelligence with machine intelligence, so that they coexist in a two-way learning relationship, will become more critical than ever. Successfully imparting technical education in AI, cyber security, machine learning should be a key focus in the education sector in order to prepare the present and next generation for the AI future.
AIM: Will AI be capable of exhibiting emotions and get a conscience?

GM: Even the world’s most advanced psychologists will not confidently give a definition on the mechanics of human emotions. I do believe that with the growing amount of data and processing power and with the rapid advancement in deep learning capabilities, AI will be able to match humans in recognising different types of emotions and sentiments in the next few decades. We are at a stage where AI can now handle complex tasks including object detection, speech and face recognition, translation of languages, extract human like insights from text, and others. But whether an AI could ever experience emotions is a controversial subject. Even if they could, they might be very different from what humans do and probably be bound by technology underpinnings.

AIM: Do you see it as being beneficial or detrimental to us?

Whether AI can turn out to be an existential threat for humans is a hotly debated subject. While some of the advances are impressive, AI might not grow out to be a threat as long as it remains a one-dimensional, reverse engineering tool from data. We might still be able to prevent an AI system from any unforeseen and potentially malicious action as long as we control it. But given that the stakes are high, this requires a deeper introspection and potentially some regulatory constraints on the research at some point in time. I strongly believe we are not yet at the point of worry.

AIM: What are some of the challenges that may come on the way to adopting AI?

GM: Adoption of AI will require successful management of the transition of primarily human-only present to machine-human future. Job displacements, disruptions to national economies and associated unrest are very much a possibility in this transition.

Overcoming the fear and suspicion of the technology would be another factor for widespread  adoption. This will be more pronounced in the knowledge automation space, where AI mainly plays.

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