“What an AI system can achieve can only be limited by imagination. It’s one of the most disruptive technologies. It can be transformational in social areas, in scientific discovery,” Sarkar, who heads the computer science & engineering department and the centre for artificial intelligence, says.
That is the reason courses on AI at the IITs draw tremendous response from students, both at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels. IIT Kharagpur is now planning a course titled Artificial Intelligence for Economics, which will deal with machine learning, game theory and their application in the subject.
“AI can play an important role in the science of economics, in tackling economic challenges. Some examples are data-driven forecasting and evidence-based policy making. The use of AI search and planning, Bayesian models, machine learning, text and data mining, and game theory will play key roles in economic decision making, behavioral economics and market games,” she says.
AI-driven teaching can be done without teachers, can be personalised, it can gauge progress, aptitude, and decide which pathway students should follow
Sudeshna Sarkar, head, computer science & engineering, IIT Kharagpur
IIT Kharagpur’s centre for AI has tied up with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to develop a National Artificial Intelligence Resource Portal (NAIRP). NAIRP was launched with initial funding from the human resources ministry as part of the National Digital Library of India (NDLI) platform.
“Various resources useful for learning AI will be made available under this portal, including textbooks, online courses, lectures, datasets, codes and tools. The first version should be ready in the next few months,” Sarkar says. The system will start off using AWS Cloud, and will also be connected in the future with the in-house cloud developed at IIT Kharagpur. The plan is to make it public.
She says students should develop the ability to keep learning about emerging technologies. “One should have the foundational knowledge to pick up the new skills. The core topics of AI are search, reasoning, machine learning, and knowledge management. Higher studies in AI requires a strong foundation in statistical methods, linear algebra, algorithms and optimisation methods,” she says.
While the use of AI in ecommerce, and other industries is well known, Sarkar says in India, the technology can bring seismic changes in education, agriculture and healthcare. “The government is paying a lot of attention to AI for social good,” she says.
AI is expected to make many mundane jobs redundant. The new kinds of jobs will require high quality education at scale. But school and higher education have major problems – not all regions have good schools or teachers, and the current education system demands hands-on teaching. “AI-driven teaching can be done without teachers, can be personalised, it can gauge progress, aptitude, and decide which pathway students should follow,” Sarkar says.
Sarkar’s research focuses on natural language processing. She has worked on text mining in the biomedical domain to automatically identify entities and relations, and link them to other structured and unstructured data sources. “I have also been working on recommendation systems for e-commerce systems, to develop better recommendation algorithms, in analysing product reviews and recommending reviews,” she says.