Cloud Computing and AI are fields that have an impact on the daily lives of all people, even though most people take them for granted or brush it aside as something esoteric. Ameya Shastri Pothukuchi is an expert in these burgeoning fields. He’s spent a decade working in the Technology leadership at Top Tech firms, specializing in Cloud Computing and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Known for being a prolific researcher and an innovative problem-solver in these areas, he is a Senior Product Manager at Microsoft with their OneDrive team which focuses on Cloud computing. He was recently conferred the prestigious Gold Globee Leadership Award for Most Innovative Person of the Year (2023) for his achievements in the field of IT Products and Services.
As we begin to speak about the potential of cloud computing and AI to induce societal changes, and the challenges with these emerging technologies – Pothukuchi’s passion towards the field is clearly visible. “A lot of people from non-Tech backgrounds may not realize it, but we’re already using Cloud computing and AI in our everyday lives. Especially the former is fairly ubiquitous at this point” he says with a smile. He defines the cloud as ‘essentially any data that is stored on remote servers and can be accessed from any device with an internet connection’.
He elucidates this point further by saying “Most email services, such as Outlook and Gmail, are hosted on the cloud. Music and video streaming services such as Spotify, Apple music, and Netflix, use cloud computing to store and deliver content to users. Most banks that offer online banking services from your PC or mobile device are powered by cloud computing. The fact that all of this information is on the cloud makes it possible for users to access these services from wherever they are.”
When we move on to the omnipresence of AI, Pothukuchi is quick to mention how the average person already uses numerous AI based services everyday without necessarily realizing it. He cites smartphones having built-in AI features such as facial recognition and predictive text as a commonly used example. He adds “Online marketplaces like Amazon also use AI to recommend products that you might be interested in based on your past purchases. Social media sites like YouTube or Facebook uses AI to show you content from people you’re most likely to be interested in.”
While there are some who feel that AI is replacing the human touch, Pothukuchi is confident that it does just the opposite. As an example, he refers to his work at SKC hospital in India where he built a popular Patient care application based on AI. “My application automated patient appointment booking and other essential administrative tasks, freeing up a big chunk of staffing resources to focus on qualitative patient care outcomes. We were able to save a combined 280,000 man-hours for patients and physicians and reduce medical errors by 22% in just the first year of our application tells you about the huge potential of AI”.
Pothukuchi has published numerous research papers in high impact journals about the areas of Cloud Computing and AI. He lists drug discovery and healthcare personalization, and transportation as the two areas where AI has very high potential to make a positive change at a societal level. Self-driving cars and trucks are a case in point for the promise that AI holds in the transport sector.
To be sure, Pothukuchi is acutely aware that there are some real concerns outlining the recent pace of AI developments that need to be addressed. Primary among these concerns are AI’s potential bias against certain ethic groups, violating consumers’ privacy by storing too much personal information and the existential risk that extremely powerful AI systems could eventually become completely independent and make decisions that are harmful to humans. The answer to these concerns, in Pothukuchi’s opinion, is regulation and not sweeping bans. A positive even if nascent development in the context of AI regulation occurred recently in July 2023, when seven leading A.I. companies in the United States met President Biden at the White house and agreed to voluntary safeguards on the technology’s development. Notable amongst these seven companies were Pothukuchi’s employer Microsoft and its investee company OpenAI, which has made the waves recently for its powerful Chat GPT AI-based software.
For now, Pothukuchi says the common good to be gained from well-regulated AI is far more than any construed cons. He is a frequent figure at universities across the US and cites proselytizing the younger generation of college students to the fields of AI and Cloud computing as his main motivation for these interactions. He was also recently invited to the prestigious panel of IEEE Reviewers which reviews worldwide applications for Senior IEEE memberships. As we conclude the conversation, Pothukuchi philosophically states that the key to effectively utilizing any new technology or anything for that matter, is to do so in moderation and strike a balance between different competing aspects.
And we’re undoubtedly inclined to agree with him on that.