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Kartik Hosanagar is the John C. Hower Professor of Technology and Digital Business and a Professor of Marketing at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Kartik’s research work focuses on the digital economy, in particular the impact of analytics and algorithms on consumers and society, Internet media, Internet marketing and e-commerce.

His book - “A Human’s guide to Machine Intelligence” has recently  been published by Penguin Randomhouse in India. The book is a comprehensive overview of the impact of AI and ML on our lives. It is written in simple language and is accessible, relevant and insightful even if you are not tech-savvy and familiar with AI, ML and related topics. The book delves into various implications of AI and ML including how we should think about consuming content, making decisions, diversifying our perspectives, solving for privacy while benefiting from the convenience of AI and more.

We spoke about some of these elements and discussed how we should think about staying relevant in a world of exponential change that human beings are not prepared to process and make sense of. Albert Allen Bartlett (Professor of Physics) famously says “The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function”.

Published in May 2019.

Staying relevant as machines get smarter

Kartik speaks about the extent to which machines and algorithms have pervaded our lives. To give an example, 80% of view on Netflix is based on algorithmic recommendations and 70% of Youtube consumption is based on what it suggests. He talks about what this means for human beings to stay relevant in the future where the machines are getting exponentially smarter by the day.

Predictability Resilience paradox

Kartik speaks about how AI has moved from being expert systems (where humans input a certain set of rules that machines follow) to machine learning systems (where human expose the machine to tonnes of data with the relevant input and output parameters) and how that leads to situations where the machines often come up with actions that are beyond our comprehension. He also takes the example of US Constitution and the Code of Hammurabi to make the distinction between the two types of systems and the trade-offs therein.

Convenience versus Privacy

Kartik speaks about how different FAANG Companies (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google) are trying to inject hosepipes into our lives and capture data for their respective algorithms to get smarter over time. He speaks about how, as consumers we need to walk the tight rope between leveraging the benefits of these platforms while protecting our privacy while doing it.

Diversity of thought in the drawing room

Kartik speaks about how we need to be mindful of the risk of being exposed to a certain type of content or view point as the algorithms are solving for engagement and are likely to show content that we are likely to gravitate towards. He speaks about some of the mechanisms he employs to ensure that he builds diversity of thought in his head as he goes about processing the world around him.

Unanticipated consequences and "Cobra effect"

Kartik speaks about how, if we are not watchful, algorithms might end up creating outcomes that we hadn’t really pictured when we started using them. He speaks about one particular example of an instance with Amazon where using algorithms to screen resumes led to the gender bias being further amplified before Amazon noticed it and addressed it.

Exercising consumer choice - balancing efficiency and diversity

Kartik uses the example of music (Pandora, Last.FM and Spotify) and speaks about the different approaches to algorithm design and the implications on the kind of content we are likely to see as consumers. He also speaks about how the designers of algorithms need to have a holistic approach to developing metrics to evaluate the efficacy of the algorithms.

Machines - Decision Makers or Enablers?

Kartik speaks about how we should think about using algorithms for decision making versus decisions support. He urges to think about machines as augmenting and not substituting human capability. He speaks about how we should consider the extent of consequences and social implications to think about how we leverage the power of the machines.

Jobs at risk and new avenues

Kartik speaks about the impact of AI on jobs of the future. He cautions that it is not just the menial blue collar type of jobs that are at risk but a wider array of jobs where machines could replace man. He goes on to talk about the implication for us and how we should think about staying relevant in the future.

Re-skilling ourselves to stay relevant

Kartik speaks about how we all could be thoughtful about equipping ourselves with some basic level of literacy around AI. Even if you are not in a technology-led company, it is likely that you will be impacted by AI in some shape or form as a leader, as a consumer or some other form.

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