Ever since the Carnegie Mellon University of Computer Science launched the first ever undergraduate degree in artificial intelligence in the US, data science circles have been abuzz about whether India should also develop a similar program. Incidentally, UK already stole a march over the US in offering a similar undergraduate degree. In fact, many universities in the UK already offer bachelor’s degrees in computer science with modules in AI which are at par with the aforementioned programme by Carnegie Mellon.
Is it time for India to pioneer new curricula and new degree options for students interested in AI and machine learning? So far, several Indian institutions have partnered with IT bellwethers for setting up Centres of Excellence, forging industry partnerships for funding and even attracting industry experts for a faculty with expertise in new tech. Launching a dedicated AI course can be a positive step in getting the next generation ready for employment in this thriving sector. It will also spur research and development activities, build broad research groups, and create paths for them.
Having an AI program embedded in the course curriculum can create real value. It will bridge the talent gap and bring various units together to foster cross-disciplinary instructions. AI brings together disciplines like machine learning, natural language processing, computer vision, robotics and human-computer interaction. Similarly, AI program will draw on various faculties — robotics, ML and the computer science department.
CMU’s bachelor’s degree program in computer science teaches students to think broadly about methods that can accomplish a wide variety of tasks across many disciplines, wrote Reid Simmons, research professor of robotics and computer science and director of the new AI degree program in a blog post. CMU’s bachelor’s degree in AI focuses on how complex inputs, such as vision, language and huge databases are used to make decisions or enhance human capabilities. AI majors will receive the same solid grounding in computer science and math courses as other computer science students. In addition, they will have additional coursework in AI-related subjects like statistics, probability, computational modelling, ML and symbolic computation.
Top Reasons Why Indian Universities Should Launch AI Undergraduate Degree Programmes
Open Career Path For Professionals Interested In Academia: Having a dedicated AI program can foster research and innovation, can create jobs for data scientists with a PhD who want to work in academia. Unlike the West, academicians from Indian institutions don’t get the mileage and industry support they ought to. Dedicated University programmes can create exceptional faculty pathways and academic alternatives for professionals who want to be associated with academia and are interested in pursuing research. These professionals can also contribute by generating industry support, attracting grants and launching incubator programs.
Support Research And Learning: While much of the industry’s research is concentrated on business objectives and values, academic research can allow scientists and researchers to work on social problems and make a meaningful impact. For example, universities in the West are known for their revolutionary research using cutting-edge data science techniques for tackling problems that can have a broader impact — like homelessness and traffic problems.
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Open New Avenues For Careers: An undergraduate degree in AI can also lead to new career avenues and help the graduates launch new career paths. For example, it can lead to positions such as ML researchers, consultants on AI ethics and policy and researchers. The graduates, who would be equipped with a broad set of tools and packages, can further sharpen their skills with domain-focused electives. This can open new avenues in consulting for the young professionals.
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Universities For Mentoring In AI Skills: Gradually, universities will broaden their scope from AI programs to mentoring industry practitioners or staff members for collaborative projects. They may also offer direct consulting for certain projects which fall under niche areas. Industry collaborations will provide opportunities for more beneficial projects and can lead to sponsorship opportunities.
Mentorship Opportunities: Universities can create a sufficient supply of high-quality talent and mentorship opportunities where students gain experience by guiding their peers.
According to an IDC report, by the year 2019, 40 percent of digital transformation initiatives will use AI services. And by 2021, 75 percent of commercial enterprise apps will use AI. Developers will soon become the drivers of growth as IT organisations hire AI engineers and data scientists to support a large number of DX initiatives.
Interestingly, CMU’s program also includes a strong emphasis on ethical and social responsibilities. There is a growing need for academicians and researchers from fields like economics, sociology, philosophy with a background in emerging technology policies to work with interdisciplinary experts and improve organisations’ digital-human interface. Enterprises like Microsoft and Google-owned DeepMind have a strong position in the AI ecosystem. They are already putting the building blocks in place by setting up an Ethics and Impact team which is focused on understanding the social effects and ethical challenges surrounding AI.
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Richa Bhatia is a seasoned journalist with six-years experience in reportage and news coverage and has had stints at Times of India and The Indian Express. She is an avid reader, mum to a feisty two-year-old and loves writing about the next-gen technology that is shaping our world.