Deeply Passionate About AI, Ankur Saxena is ready to Move Humanity Forward.

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Sofia CampusWe believe that every student who enrolls at Sofia University has the ability to be a ripple in the wave of humanity’s evolution. The Moving Humanity Forward scholarship asks students to consider their own personal contributions to this amazing effort and how they envision an education at Sofia University will help them move humanity forward.

The School of Technology and Engineering at Sofia University was proud to award a Moving Humanity Forward Scholarship award to 2017 Master of Science in Computer Science student Ankur Saxena.

His winning essay is shared below. Congratulations Ankur!

Fire. Wheel. Mining. Steam Engine. Electricity. Airplane. Computer.

These technological discoveries and inventions have changed human life. They have improved the standard of human living by cutting down time and effort needed to get things done and fostering human creativity and collaboration. They have spawned new industries, generated employment and brought economic prosperity. I am a technologist and see technology as a tool to move the humanity forward in the aforementioned ways.

clouds-1845517_1920There is not a single facet of human life untouched by technology. Everything from industry, to medicine, to how we work has been fundamentally reshaped by technology. Technology can also help humans improve their abilities. Nootropics help us become smarter. An Augmented Reality headset (like Facebook’s Oculus) helps us perceive the world with more detail and information. Robotic exoskeletons can help physically challenged humans become mobile.

The notion that “software is eating the world,” i.e. disrupting the way things were done traditionally, is widely accepted. I believe that in the future, Artificial Intelligence is going to ‘eat’ software. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the intelligence exhibited by machines in the form of human cognitive functions such as visual perception, speech recognition, and decision-making. In simpler words, computers are learning to think, read and write, as well as see and perceive their environment like humans. I lead VC investments in AI for Cisco Systems’ $2 billion VC fund and collaborate daily with visionary entrepreneurs to dream of new ways in which AI can move the humanity forward.

AI for Today and Tomorrow

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The frightening, futurist portrayals of AI-powered machines taking over the world that dominate movies, publications, and social media, and shape the popular imagination, are fictional. In reality, AI is already changing our daily lives, in ways that improve human health, safety, and productivity. AI is also changing how people interact with technology. Many people have already become accustomed to touching and talking to their smart phones.

People’s future relationships with machines will become ever more nuanced and personalized as AI systems learn to adapt to individual personalities. These AI applications will help monitor people’s well-being, alert them to risks ahead, and deliver services when needed. In my vision for the future, I see AI powering all aspects of human life and work, but here I will elucidate just three applications that I am personally passionate about viz. urban transportation, healthcare, and education.

21798665468_be99997b20_bAutonomous transportation will be commonplace in the future. As cars become better drivers than humans, city-dwellers will own fewer cars, live further from work, and spend time differently, leading to an entirely new urban organization. I envision a future where cars, buses and trains run autonomously and cities are able to offer an integrated transportation solution to their residents. Imagine how many breakdowns and accidents we could avoid! This will also free up time for us to pursue hobbies and interests during daily commute.

In healthcare, AI will drive the future of patient-centric care models. Diagnosis will become automated. Physicians currently require verbal descriptions of symptoms from patients and, in their heads, correlate patterns against the clinical symptoms of known diseases. AI-enabled automated assistance will free up a lot of the physicians’ time, allowing them to both see more patients (thus reducing patients’ time to get care) as well as conduct medical research.

Human genome has already been sequenced but the cost of sequencing is exorbitant right now. AI is going to bring the cost down and in the future, everybody will have their genome sequenced and stored in their medical records. This will allow humanity to become proactive in preventing diseases and disorders, thus reducing healthcare costs and prolonging life.

In education, the use of intelligent AI tutors to assist teachers in the classroom and in the home is likely to expand significantly in the future, as will learning based on virtual reality applications. As is commonly feared, human teachers will not become obsolete; computer-based learning systems are not likely to fully replace human teaching in schools.

Even though quality education will always require active engagement by human teachers, AI promises to enhance education at all levels, especially by providing personalization at scale for students. In higher education, AI is the secret sauce that will enable instructors to grow the size of their classrooms by several orders of magnitude – thus disrupting the university classroom-model and democratizing higher education.

Why I Chose The MSCS at Sofia University

DSC00132Sofia University’s Master of Science Degree in Computer Science (MSCS) with a specialization in Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning is the right program to launch the next phase of my career in Silicon Valley. I was drawn to Sofia’s MSCS program for a variety of reasons.

First, the program combines fundamentals of software development and applied computer science with transpersonal values and skills, making it ideal for a manager like me. Where else will I find a course such as ‘Critical Hermeneutic Thinking for Leaders and Managers’ that will enhance my managerial skills?

The combined specialties of computer science and psychology will equip me to assess both the technology and human aspects of any AI-based solution in moving the humanity forward. It will also enable me to differentiate myself from other VC investors who focus only on the technology aspects and do not weigh the human/ technology user aspects of an AI solution.

Secondly, the field of AI research is all about machines replicating how humans perceive and process information in the real world and as such heavily borrows scientific principles from the field of psychology. Being cognizant of the human side of the AI technology-led disruption is more important than ever in order to deal with a lot of bad press currently around how AI will lead to machines taking over human life and massive job losses. Sofia’s over four decades of teaching and research work in psychology makes it an ideal school to pursue a degree in AI.

meditation-1287207_1920Thirdly, my wife is a trained Yoga teacher and has recently introduced me to the blissful world of meditation and mindfulness. I plan to augment my wife’s support with Sofia’s extensive managerial and psychology curriculum in managing stress, handling conflicts and navigating critical decision situations in my workplace.

As a venture investor collaborating with entrepreneurs, I aspire to be consiglieri – the first person that entrepreneurs call when they need feedback and help. Having spent last six years in the world of startup investing, I can appreciate how lonely it gets for entrepreneurs and they need help weathering several storms along the way to building great companies.

mapLastly, Sofia’s Silicon Valley location and its faculty’s technology industry experience imply that the curriculum is innovative, cutting-edge and suitable for a frontier technology investor like me. I would also gain a lot from Sofia’s Transformative Technology Lab’s resources around startup matchmaking and thought leadership on scalable transformative technologies.

Furthermore, I am looking forward to learning from and collaborating with my MSCS program classmates who share my passion to bring the best of technology products to improve the human life and experience.

I cannot wait to start on this incredible journey. First step is enrolling at Sofia University this summer!

About Ankur Saxena

Ankur Saxena picCisco’s $2 billion global investments platform has provided me a great vantage point to partner with smart, visionary entrepreneurs already. In the last three months, I have invested in a French company providing ‘smart’ network software to connect the next several billion devices to the internet. I also led the acquisition of an AI company that is building next-generation human-computer interaction software solutions. Imagine being able to talk to devices hands-free at home, office, car, shopping malls and elsewhere. Lastly, I invested in a company that is enabling self-driving functionality in cars.

Outside work, I regularly speak at industry conferences, judge startup pitch competitions, mentor AI startups, and write blog posts and articles on technology websites. I am also an honorary member of several entrepreneurship fellowship organizations and frequently share my knowledge with like-minded change makers globally.

I am deeply passionate about how technology in general and AI in particular will move the humanity forward. My long-term career goal is to become a domain expert and a thought leader in the field of AI. Furthermore, I aspire to be a successful venture capital investor, bringing valuable advice and mentorship for startups on important product and technology decisions. Sofia’s MSCS program will help me differentiate myself from other venture capital investors investing in this field and significantly accelerate the impact that I can have. As a proud alum, it will be my pleasure to mentor future classes of students as well as alumni and give back to my alma mater.

gold seal no backgroundAbout The School of Technology and Engineering, MSCS Program

The Sofia educational model offers students not only a solid intellectual foundation, but an extraordinary opportunity for deep transformational growth and personal experience of the subject matter. The Master of Science in Computer Science degree  provides students with a broad background in software development and other core disciplines of computer science. It also gives them the opportunity to further their knowledge in foundational and applied topics and learn technological skills with humanistic values

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