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Time100 AI list: Meet the Indians making an impact in the sector

From CEOs to activists, here is a list of Indians revolutionizing the world of AI, with a deep dive into their game-changing contributions and inspiring journeys

Time100 AI list: Meet the Indians making an impact in the sector
[Source photo: Chetan Jha/Press Insider]

Time magazine has unveiled its inaugural TIME100 AI list, a diverse compilation of the 100 most influential personalities currently shaping the AI landscape globally. The selection, which celebrates both youthful prodigies and seasoned veterans, features CEOs, policymakers, researchers, and artists. It not only applauds achievements in the sector but also fosters conversations on equity and inclusivity in AI. A look at the Indians and the people of Indian origin who made it to the list:

1. Manu Chopra, CEO, Karya

Social entrepreneur Manu Chopra, 27, founded the nonprofit Karya, which builds datasets for AI projects and brings together technology companies and data workers. Arya pays its workers at least $5.00 per hour (around 20 times the Indian minimum wage) for their work, and pays them again every time a company licenses it to build a new AI. The company is currently gathering datasets of Indian languages that have so far been sidelined from the AI boom.

2. Neal Khosla, CEO and co-founder, Curai

Machine-learning researcher Neal Khosla, 30, co-founded AI-assisted telehealth startup Curai Health in 2017. Users pay $15 a month (if the cost isn’t covered by their employer) for the ability to text 24X7 with health care professionals who can answer questions, create care plans, write prescriptions, and, if necessary, refer users to specialists. Curai’s AI functions as an assistant for doctors, handling straightforward tasks to free up their time for more complex work. By the end of 2020, it had reportedly completed more than 350,000 patient visits.

3. Tushita Gupta, CTO and co-founder, Refiberd

Tushita Gupta and Sarika Bajaj, both now 27, founded the California-based Refiberd in 2020. Refiberd tackles the growing issue of textile waste in the US using AI technology. They’ve developed a system that can identify the exact materials in textiles, which makes recycling them, including materials that were previously non-recyclable, much easier. The company is women-led and aims to break industry norms, not just in recycling, but also by empowering women in technical roles. They’ve recently secured over $3.4 million in seed funding and are initiating pilot projects in the US and Europe.

4. Sneha Revanur, founder and president, Encode Justice

Sneha Revanur, just 18, noted a rising trend in the use of ChatGPT among her peers and took it upon herself to ensure her generation has a voice in regulating the rapidly evolving AI industry. In 2020, she founded Encode Justice, a youth-led initiative in her home state of California that focuses on AI policy advocacy and education, which now encompasses 800 members from 30 countries. Revanur actively campaigns for the inclusion of young people on AI oversight and advisory boards, arguing that they deserve a say in shaping the technologies that will significantly influence their future.

5. Sarah Chander, senior policy advisor, European Digital Rights

Sarah Chander, 32, is a central figure in influencing the creation of the AI Act in the EU, working tirelessly to ensure the law protects communities of color and addresses surveillance concerns. As a senior policy advisor at European Digital Rights, she leverages a network of over 50 NGOs and experts to advocate for a shift from a technical to an accountability perspective in AI regulation. Chander’s efforts, focusing on transparency and public redress frameworks, have been largely acknowledged and incorporated in the EU’s pioneering legislative approach to AI, fostering her optimism for the outcomes of the upcoming discussions in the fall.

6. Romesh and Sunil Wadhwani, co-founders, Wadhwani AI

Billionaire brothers Romesh and Sunil Wadhwani launched Wadhwani AI in 2018 with a vision to leverage AI in addressing global development challenges, focusing on aiding those living under $5 a day. Situated in Mumbai, the institute collaborates with governments in the Global South to develop scalable AI solutions in healthcare, education, and agriculture. The Wadhwanis have committed $60 million to this cause, nurturing projects like AI programs in Haryana that aid in tuberculosis diagnosis and treatment. The brothers harbor high hopes for India, envisioning it as a global frontrunner in utilizing AI for societal welfare, driven by its diverse demographic and existing opportunities.

7. Rumman Chowdhury, CEO and co-founder, Humane Intelligence

In August, AI ethicist and Humane Intelligence founder Rumman Chowdhury co-organized a significant event in Las Vegas, encouraging hackers to pinpoint vulnerabilities in chatbots developed by prominent AI companies. Supported by the Biden Administration, this initiative aimed to identify and remedy potential issues before public release, enhancing AI safety and reliability. Previously heading Twitter’s machine-learning ethics division until Elon Musk fired her, Chowdhury has deep insights into AI’s pitfalls, emphasizing that the technology is not “magic” but code grounded in mathematics. She criticizes the undue reverence for AI and urges people to question its functionality openly, shedding light on the misconceived notion of AI sentience perpetuated even by experts.

8. Kalika Bali, principal researcher, Microsoft Research India

Despite discouragement early in her career, Kalika Bali persisted in her determination to work with the world’s most marginalized languages. Now, as a principal researcher at Microsoft Research, she collaborates on projects aiming to be inclusive of marginalized languages. One initiative, undertaken with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, strives to build “gender intentional” datasets for five major Indian languages, aspiring to eliminate gender biases frequently found in AI training data. Another endeavor focuses on “code mixing,” a communication style often used in multicultural settings, integrating two languages into one, to foster more inclusive AI tools. Bali envisions a world where language does not limit access to technology.

9. Arvind Narayanan and Sayash Kapoor, professor and doctoral candidate, respectively, at Princeton University

Arvind Narayanan and Sayash Kapoor delve into the complex landscape of AI discourse, where they identify both over-promising presentations and unfounded fearful narratives surrounding AI capabilities. In a bid to provide clarity and confront AI misinformation, they are penning a book set to publish in 2024, following the immense success of Narayanan’s talk “How to recognize AI snake oil.” The duo critically analyses the demands driving AI “snake oil,” attributing the surge to broken institutions finding refuge in broken AI. They call for realistic and critical engagement with AI technology, emphasizing the role of platforms in controlling misinformation rather than fearing an uncontrollable influx of AI-generated disinformation.

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