Posts

Rockefeller Foundation Workshop on Responsible AI Futures

Image
The Rockefeller Foundation has committed itself to shape the design and impact of Artificial Intelligence on Society with a series of workshops and vision documents. The first in its series - 'Designing a Responsible AI Future' just took place in Bellagio Italy on Oct 9-12 ,2019. I was invited to contribute to this effort alongside technologists, thought leaders, academics, and artists, although admittedly, while diverse in their disciplines and focus, were primarily from the Anglo-Saxon region. 
So the conversation was dominated by United States concerns and issues with an emphasis on decentralization of tech, and focus on the harmful effects of fintech, facial recognition, and other innovations as a means of building a responsible AI. While undoubtedly accountability matters very much so, from a global perspective, the opportunities of AI, and the importance of convergence of diverse platforms into these hyper-ecosystems emerge from the vantage point of scarce resources and …

Keynote and Fireside chat on AI4Good at NEXT event Hamburg

Image
The NEXT 19 at Hamburg - what an event! Beautifully curated with the right mix of humor, creativity, seriousness and playfulness - the kind of thoughtful event required for the public to engage with important and timely subjects It was a brilliant move to connect this festival with the Reeperbahn Festival which basically mixed the crowd of tech people, creative industry folks -media, design, advertising...

I had a blast doing my keynote on my book The Next Billion Users.  The audience really engaged and I am getting really into going back and forth with them during my talks these days. I always get the surprisely reactions of how come I am so optimistic in this time of the doom and gloom of social media killing democracy, our minds, our communities and more and of course, we have been here many times before. We fall in love and we fall out of love with tech - that which we love, we fear, we loathe and then it starts all over again. Like I said at the tail end of my talk - you cannot …

Keynote alongside the legendary Jimmy Wales

Image
Click on the highlights of the Techfestival in Copenhagen on 7-9 September and you will see me positioned next to Jimmy Wales, the legendary founder of Wikipedia. This is such a big highlight of my career. It is such an honor to be situated alongside a person of this caliber - I continue to be in awe of how he managed to resist commercializing Wikipedia and continuing to keep it up as one of the top most loved sites around the world.

The Techfestival itself was an amazing event with a spectrum of fantastic people and even more amazingly, many with backgrounds in the humanities -literature, philosophy, the arts in general. Their backgrounds explain why this event brought sustained good conversations, thoughtful reflections and creative ideas to the fore which was not tech centric but society centric, about what it means to be meaningful, democratic, social, happy, and connected with one another - basically putting the human over tech in this conversation. I appreciated that very much …

My East Asia book tour

Image
The last two weeks have been thrilling! With my book being translated into Chinese, I got on the road to speak about the "The Next Billion Users"  with academics, development and tech practitioners, activists, and the lay public in Singapore, Macau, Hong Kong and Taipei. The news of the typhoons in China and Taiwan and the ongoing protests in Hong Kong did make me wonder how this would play out, adding a streak of adventure to this whole journey. But not only did everything run smoothly, but people across board were so extraordinarily kind, hospitable and generous with their time and attention that I am determined this is just my beginning with this region.

The book talks started at the launch of the Innovation lab in Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore. The workshop aptly called "Interrogating Innovation"  brought together speakers from across disciplines and countries and shed light on the obsession with innovation, the implicit normative meanings…

Brainstorming at the AI & Democracy CIFAR Workshop at Microsoft Research Montreal

Image
I was invited to participate in the 'AI Powered Information Ecosystems & Democracy' workshop held at the Microsoft Research Lab in Montreal and sponsored by CIFAR

The premise of this workshop was to engage a "diverse groups of researchers from academia and industry with practitioners and civil society representatives, to encourage collaborations between those involved in the research and development of computations tools with those with focused expertise in policy, journalism, civil rights, and democratic values."

The basis of this workshop was to outline all the opportunities and challenges that AI-powered information ecosystems (like social media, search engines, or content-sharing platforms) have brought upon in recent years and in particular to the strengthening of our democratic institutions around the world.

It was an intense workshop where we worked in core groups on topics such as communities, elections, misinformation, and regulation and when in there,…

Talking to Tech: Keynote at EMERCE Next in Amsterdam

Image
Wonderful experience speaking as one of the few academics in a room full of young tech entrepreneurs at the EMERCE Next event in Amsterdam. I gave a talk based on my new book 'The Next Billion Users' published by Harvard Press earlier this year. I spoke about the myths that aid agencies and tech industries perpetuate about these new user groups based on their biased understandings of them and rooted in little empirical evidence. Worse yet, even in the face of vast evidence that contradicts these worldviews, this thinking still persists so I hope I was able to disrupt a little bit these conventional approaches. I got questions on Article 13 on copyright policies under the new GDPR which indeed is so far from the world of media piracy in developing countries. I emphasized how we need to look also at why these policies are barely enforced based on historical and unfair media business models in the global south. Other questions grappled with the ways the "West" and the …

Motivational Speaker for Gemeente Amsterdam Diversity Program

Image
I cannot emphasize enough how much I love Amsterdam. It really feels like home for me and that's saying a lot given that I have moved so much since I was a teenager. From India to the United States (San Francisco, New York and Boston), I finally came to the Netherlands about a decade ago. So, was really happy to get an invite from the Gemeente Amsterdam (the Amsterdam municipality) to give a motivational talk for a program they have initiated a few years ago to improve diversity and support those less represented in positions of power.

Of course, usually I associate the municipality with paying my taxes and water bills and all the tedium of city governance. Had to block that Pavlovian training temporarily as I went about participating and speaking about my life story to this wonderful group of young mentees and mentors of this diversity program.

This mentoring program is in partnership with a wonderful organization called ECHO which is an expert organization on diversity policy. I…