OF DYSTOPIAS THAT PAINT THE FUTURE AS A TECH NIGHTMARE, AYESHA KHANNA HOLDS NOTHING. THE BOSS OF ONE OF THE WORLD'S MOST IMPORTANT ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE COMPANIES WANTS US TO SHAPE OUR OWN FUTURE.
INTERVIEW BY CORINNA BAIER | JAN 19 2019 | FOCUS MAGAZINE
Neither drones nor robots nor centrally controlled, smart cities scare Ayesha Khanna. The founder and CEO of Addo AI, an artificial intelligence consultancy, is a tech optimist and even works with governments on Smart City concepts. The Pakistani living in Singapore is one of the leading experts and thinks that we should not leave control over our data and our knowledge to others. Because AI is only dangerous if you let it become dangerous. Also at the Future Fair DLD - Digital Life Design - this weekend in Munich, she will discuss with other visionaries about the limits and opportunities of our tech company.
Ms. Khanna, together with her husband you coined the term "hybrid age". What does that mean exactly?
It's the way technology changes our lives. It is omnipresent and is becoming increasingly intelligent, social and cheaper. Similar to the last industrial revolution. However, it goes deeper because it affects the tissues of our lives. We do not use the tools. We live with them.
In what kind of relationship?
Above all, the relationship should be proactive. If we continue to treat artificial intelligence as something that happens to us like in a science fiction movie, we will become too passive, and a few will control everything. The stronger and smarter we become, the less vulnerable we are, the more we object to manipulation. Besides, we will have social relationships with machines.
How should this work?
We have to decide that for ourselves. It's no use asking yourself what the future will look like. We should ask ourselves how we want to design them. We have the power to do it.
And then how will the understanding of humanity change?
Not in the near future.
Yes. I think that the question becomes interesting as soon as we expand our human intelligence through artificial.
Like a superpower?
I would not call it that. Rather a kind of extension. Human plus artificial intelligence.
Would you let your child operate on a machine?
That depends on the robot. Some KIs can analyze skin cancer better than doctors, and airplanes can be controlled automatically. So, if that gets any better, it may be that a robot will be the better surgeon. I am absolutely open to it.
Even cities are becoming more and more digital. There are some experiments with new concepts, for example in Toronto. Bill Gates wants to build a whole city in Arizona. What will a day look like in such a city?
These are more or less laboratory experiments. The majority of people will live in big cities like Karachi, New York or London. A day in such a city will hopefully give us more time. We will not have to drive ourselves, fill in forms, free our minds of automated actions to be creative. This works well in Singapore. This is not just a smart city, but a smart nation.
A combination of urban design, quality of life, ethics, values. The concepts have a different approach. The elderly will not live isolated in high-tech homes. The apartments will be smart, but when the people go out, they will have life around them, kindergartens. It's about a human approach to smart cities. but a smart nation.
They also advise governments on the subject. What are the central issues politicians need to address?
That it is not about technology for the sake of technology, but the human being in the foreground. That you do not indiscriminately digitize different areas and then continue to build data-based, but think data-based. Also, of course, privacy. How to bring the algorithms under control properly. The government can be an example to the big corporations.
It's a horror scenario for most people that governments and companies know so much about them.
The best way to handle this is not to treat technology as a black box. We need to understand them, trust our instincts and speak openly about these issues.
We just had a big data scandal in Germany, caused by a 20 year old man in the basement of his parents. What if smart cities are seriously attacked? Will terrorists hack autonomous cars in the future and our electricity companies?
That can be very good. Cyber security is one of the largest tech areas and the most important. Also for the big companies. For every government, security must be the top priority. Artificial intelligence should also be used.
Who will win the battle for supremacy in artificial intelligence: China or the US?
There are currently many winners in the world. Obviously, China is at the forefront. But you have to distinguish two areas. First, the research. The United Kingdom is very strong, including China and the United States. And second, apps and products. And the rule is: the bigger the population, the faster a country gets ahead, because more data is being generated by Ayesha's husband, author and entrepreneur. Therefore, Asia, India and Indonesia should not be underestimated. So you can not name a clear winner. I hope there will be a collaboration.
In the US, the data will basically be a collaboration. In the US, the data is basically dominated by only three or four companies. This is a dangerous development.
Everything is moving so fast that legislation is struggling to keep up. We need to make people aware of it and help them gain access to their own data. Corporations may not have any mastery here.
They help young girls learn how to program. Why is this important to society?
When companies hire only men, the product they develop is inevitably biased as far as gender is concerned. But these problems also exist with age and origin. That's not their fault. That's the system. That's why the profession has to be diverse. In Asia, women are not encouraged enough to switch to the software industry. Even if they did, their self-confidence would be low. They have just been raised that way. I want to give girls that self-confidence, so that they take technical careers. But not only her. Everyone should make themselves strong. Only then can one use the potential of AI to help humankind.
When did you start programming?
At 24 years old. But it is never too late.
You yourself have been receiving elite education at Harvard. Is that still worth something?
It is not as important as it used to be. Harvard courses are also available online. But what I also learned there is creative self-esteem - from my fellow students and teachers - and that it's okay to fail. This attitude alone is already an education. As a result, universities will continue to play a role. But will we spend four years as a student in the dorm? I'm not sure.
How do we have to prepare our children for the modern working world?
You should have a basic knowledge in computer science. That does not mean they should become programmers. But they have to understand how it works. Every future product and service will have something to do with it. In addition, you can not just decide on a single area. You have to educate yourself broadly and develop yourself as a human being. The children should understand technology as another language of their creativity.
How digital, smart and connected is your home? Your everyday life?
Not futuristic. We use our laptops, but I do not speak with mirrors or anything, for example. We had some social robots at home, but after a while they were not that captivating anymore. They are open and try a lot, but the smartphone is still the center.
Do your kids have cell phones?
Yes. With all these parental control mechanisms. If we travel and they are lost, we can find them via the iphone. I do not find that scary. We just want them to look at technology and say, "I know what I have to do. I can do something with it. "
You started your career on Wall Street. What did you learn there?
Discipline and speed. I could see the effects of technology. At that time, she was not so common in other industries.
Have you ever had the feeling that you worked for the dark side?
No, but the economy could have taken more responsibility. I realized that companies are always about people first.
What are you reading?
"Measure What Matters" by John Doerr. It helps people in the tech industry to set the right priorities.
Do you have a favorite future vision from pop culture?
Hm. , at least no dystopia. I liked the movie "Black Panther". I liked the way they showed me the benefits of the technology.
Do you have a favorite robot?
I have not met many yet. We tried some. But not long enough to allow me to judge them.
Would you charge your brain to the cloud if it were possible?
Basically, I am not against it. It depends on the reason. I would need a good argument for that. But I think the discussion about these topics is important. We need philosophers more than ever. These are not tech questions.
What was the first program you wrote?
A very simple Hello World program, I think.
Ever written a program to play a joke on someone?
I was too old for that. But my kids will definitely have a lot of fun with it.
They travel a lot as a family. How many stamps do your children actually have in their passport?
Lots. We have to add pages all the time. Travel is important to you. They also lived in Berlin for a while and went to school there. They are true world citizens and have a wide horizon.