Robots Will Never Take Over Humans, Assures A Teenaged Software and Cognitive Developer


Artificial Intelligence, or AI, will never become general purpose. It will remain specific to the individual use case that you train it, says Tanmay Bakshi, a fourteen-year-old software and cognitive developer.

MARYAM ISMAIL | Caravan Daily

WILL robots take over future? I hope not. The thought takes me back to a 70’s TV show, The Bionic Man. The protagonist, Steve Austin, had a digitally enabled body, but he wasn’t the only one. There was also a gaggle of evil androids, very human-like robots wreaking havoc all over the place.  This terrifying vision of the future is not happening yet.

Tanmay Bakshi during his talk at the 2018 International Government Communication Forum, in Sharjah, assured me and the audience, saying, “Robots will not take over humans.”

Bakshi, is a fourteen-year-old software and cognitive developer (this means he makes artificial intelligence stuff for us lay folks). Encouraged by his computer programmer father, at the wee age of five, he found his love for computers. “You can imagine that watching anything on a computer at the age of five, would be so fascinating. I had that curiosity and my dad recognized that and brought me into the world of programming.”  By nine years of age, he to learnt to code, and has since written a book.

Bakshi’s secret weapon is his affable personality, storytelling skills, and his pure heart. His message: “We should not be afraid of AI, artificial intelligence, instead, we should harness it to help others and use technology to make our societies, Future Proof,” he told the audience. Bakshi has been working with the IBM Watson, an artificial intelligence software, which among its many applications, is in use in the healthcare field. This seems to be Bakshi’s passion; using AI to improve the lives of the ill and infirm. During his talk at the IGCF, he spoke about using AI to help the deaf hear and the blind see, and giving voice to those severely handicapped who cannot speak.

His heart is in the right place, but he is only one person, we need a team of Bakshis but where and how can we get them? Education.

For the past few years, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) learning, has been the buzz word. Its aim was to get students ready for the future and make sure that they are future proof. That is, ready to handle whatever the future holds. Yet, so far, STEM in K-12 has meant playing games with code and building robots with Lego. This however, won’t produce a computer whiz like Bakshi. He agrees. “I agree. There are lots of schools that focus on games and robotics, but where do you go from there is the issue. These curricula are useful as an introduction, schools need to provide the next level.”

He said that there were those such as the governments of Dubai and Sharjah which were taking steps to prepare their citizens to thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. He has also been working with one school in particular, the Global Indian School, to create a technology curriculum which teach them to manage AI and put it to practical use.

What is striking about Bakshi is his utter confidence and humility. This got me to wondering, how does one grow their very own prodigy? Well, one thing is to first recognize a child’s talent and give them all the equipment they need to run with it.

So what magnificent school does this kid go to where he learns all of this stuff? None.

“I went to school until the sixth grade and after that I have been homeschooled,” Bakshi said. “My needs are more specific, I wanted to learn at my own pace. For example, go faster in certain areas of focus, more on technology or be more flexible with my own schedule, so homeschooling is good for me,” Bakshi added.

So, who is teaching him, I asked. He told me he is taught by a collaboration of his mother, father, and sister. They follow the Ontario, Canada curriculum and in some cases, he wants to accelerate to another grade. “I don’t formerly accelerate. I am still in grade 9 , which is appropriate for my age, but informally I do. I learn whatever I want to, that is the benefit of homeschooling.”

Bakshi’s story is phenomenal but it is more about recognition of a child’s natural talent and fostering it. As Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Outliers says, one can have talent but without opportunity and a means of developing that talent it will be wasted. For Bakshi opportunity came from his father, who worked for IBM which lead him to learn coding. As Bakshi advanced in his knowledge, he then met John Cohn, IBM Fellow in corporate and technical strategy, who is now his mentor.

So whither AI in this story of human capability? Bakshi has the last word. “AI will never become general purpose. It will remain specific to the individual use case that you train it. For example, there is now a smart cane which has AI processors imbedded in the cane, has a battery that lasts for days and can tell a blind people in their ears, exactly what they are looking at. In fact I have created projects in the field of audiology that allow audiologist to diagnose hearing disorders faster and more accurately. So, AI is being used in almost any field that you can imagine. This is especially the case in healthcare.”

So there is no need to be afraid of AI just yet. After listening to Tanmay Bakshi, we should plan how we can tackle it and used it to make the world a better place.


Clarion India - News, Views and Insights about Indian Muslims, Dalits, Minorities, Women and Other Marginalised and Dispossessed Communities.

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