Top industry leaders and tech honchos from across the country gathered under one roof to discuss the many benefits and possible pitfalls of the new wave of digital disruption caused by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its impact on businesses, both in India and globally.
The Blue Circle, an exclusive leadership community aimed at fostering personal and professional growth among like-minded company leaders, organised a panel discussion in New Delhi on Tuesday that featured experts in their fields that have seen the benefits of applying AI-based technology first-hand and analysed its potential to disrupt the workflow as we know it.
In an in-depth analysis, the panellists - Aakrit Vaish, co-founder and CEO of Haptik Inc (moderator for the evening), Sriram Raghavan, director, IBM Research and Sandeep Murthy, co-founder and partner, Lightbox - put forth multiple use cases of AI, presented contrarian views backed by arguments, and analysed the success and lacunas of the technology in various sectors like healthcare, education, finance, insurance, human resource etc.
Vaish started by explaining AI, and how its application can help redefine productivity. He then asked the other panellists to provide some practical use cases of the technology.
Murthy, a venture capitalist who has worked with travel giant Cleartrip and food delivery service Faasos said that "AI can help augment the way we analyse user data to improve customer retention. For example, at Faasos, we track and update a customer's eating preferences to send customised suggestions and offers to him/her, which has helped improve reordering rates."
He also mentioned how a company in his firm's portfolio called Embibe applied AI to generate test preparation papers for IIT and other entrance exams that addressed a student's custom study requirements by designing a distinct preparation plan. "The AI helps structure the data set and that in turn helps improve a student's scores. This is especially helpful in translating the paper, which is a big boost in a multi-lingual country like India," Murthy added.
Raghavan emphasised on the need to re-imagine the way we look at AI, as the traditional man-versus-machine outlook portrayed by the entertainment industry does not fit the bill. He also said that "the impact of this technology is not just limited to deliverables but to the very core, culture of a business. The use cases for AI are endless, as they can help not just Business-to-consumer (B2C) organisations but augment management aspects of any business (be it HR, finance, inventory management etc)."
While AI is being lauded as the next revolution since the industrial age, many continue to be apprehensive about its pitfalls. The loss of jobs to machine counterparts is among the chief concerns.
Addressing the commonly heard argument against wide-scale application of AI, Murthy said: "With each major overhaul in technology, with each disruption, some jobs are created and some are lost. The same is the case with AI. It will simply herald in a transition in the type of workforce needed, instead of a displacement."
Raghavan, agreeing with Murthy, added that, "Job displacement is not a major concern with AI. Though we do need ways or laws to govern AI, as the moral and ethical implications of having such a technology unchecked can be bad."
Vaish took a more sombre view on the matter as he said that, "AI is in a nascent stage. In my view, there will be zero impact on the workforce in the next decade or so. And even after that, we can simply re-orient the type of jobs needed."
Following the discussion, the panel took questions from the members present - who represented various fields like education, construction, IT, healthcare, insurance, banking, e-commerce, telecommunication etc - that were centred around the potential disruptions AI can cause in India.