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Interview with Dee Kanejiya, CEO, Cognii - Speaker at Global AI Conference - Boston Sep 25 - 27 2018 Posted on : Sep 06 - 2018

We feature speakers at Global Artificial Intelligence Conference - 2018 Sep 25 - 27 – Boston to catch up and find out what he or she is working on now and what's coming next. This week we're talking to Dee Kanejiya, CEO, Cognii Topic - "Future Of Education And AI"

Interview with Dee Kanejiya

1. Tell us about yourself and your background.

I am the founder and CEO of Cognii, a leading provider of AI technologies to the education industry. My background is in technology and business development in the areas of AI, speech recognition, machine learning, and cognitive science while working in academia, startups and large companies at organizations such as the Indian Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University, Vlingo, and Nuance.

2.  What have you been working on recently?

My recent work focuses on applying AI technology to the education and training industry. We have developed a conversational EdTech product called Cognii Virtual Learning Assistant that offers personalized tutoring to students while automatically grading their short essay responses. It improves students’ learning outcomes, saves teachers teachers’ time, and allows schools to scale the high quality education in an affordable way. Based on our efficacy studies, Cognii VLA has received a number of recognitions such as the most innovative EdTech product of the year award, and the best learning assessment innovation of the year award. Cognii is also a recipient of the National Science Foundation innovation research grant award, and is recognized by a number of market research firms as a leading vendor for the exponentially growing AI market in the education sector.

3. Tell me about the right tool you used recently to solve customer problem?

We leverage a number of proprietary Natural Language Processing tools to help our customers solve key problems in designing the most effective educational experience. Within NLP, we solve the problems such as text tokenization, semantic modeling, and pattern classification. One such tool is SELSA (Syntactically Enhanced Latent Semantic Analysis) which was one of the first approaches to tensor representation of natural language by uniquely combining the lexical, syntactic, and semantic information in a high dimensional vector space. 

4. Where are we now today in terms of the state of artificial intelligence, and where do you think we’ll go over the next five years?

Today, AI is transforming a number of industries and there is a lot of buzz around it. The number of news/blog articles written about AI has grown exponentially in the past few years which indicates a broader societal interest. However, this has also created a gap between the perception and capabilities of AI. Over the next five years, we will continue to see the growth of AI capabilities and practical applications. The biggest beneficiaries of the AI technology will be the industries that were farther behind in technology adoption as they will be able to leapfrog to the next level of high efficiency, scalability, and outcomes improvements.

5. There is a negative perception around AI and even some leading technology folks have come out against it or saying that it’s actually potentially harmful to society. Where are you coming down on those discussions? How do you explain this in a way that maybe has a more positive beneficial impact for society?

While there are some concerns that AI might replace humans in a certain industries, there are also a number of benefits that AI offers and the net effect will be positive for the society. I always like to point out that one way to counter the perceived negative effects of the ‘not-so-friendly’ automation AI is by leveraging the ‘friendly’ EdTech AI to educate and train people in new skills for the future economic prosperity.

6. When you’re hiring, what types of people are you hiring? The job market for traditional programmers, engineers is  very difficult to get into AI space. Are you hiring from that talent pool or is that a different talent pool? In terms of talent, how do you go about ensuring you get the best AI people at your company?

We look for people who are entrepreneurial and have an urge to make a positive difference in the society. We value experience in AI, but also give opportunities to people who have demonstrated ability to learn new skills fairly quickly. We receive a large number of job applications every month, and process them carefully to select the best candidates who go through multiple rounds of interviews that test their technical, interpersonal, and entrepreneurial skills to ensure the best quality.

7. Will progress in AI and robotics take away the majority of jobs currently done by humans? Which jobs are most at risk?

Technological disruption has a history of creating a ‘job migration’ which is a more accurate term than ‘job losses.’ In general, when a new technology solves a significant problem in a particular industry, it results in a temporary job displacement for the skills that are automated, but at the same time, it opens up jobs for the development and maintenance of the technological solutions and innovations. This requires up-skilling the workers for the new professions. Today AI is still in the early phase, so the jobs that might be at risk are the ones involving simple tasks in information processing or physical object maneuvers.

8. What can AI systems do now?

Today, AI systems are able to recognize human speech very well in a few languages. Most of the widely used AI systems also understand short natural language queries to serve informational needs of humans. They can also recognize objects in a picture or a video and synthesize new scenes. Using such generic capabilities, domain-specific AI systems are able to build additional logic to solve specific problems.  

9. When will AI systems become more intelligent than people?

It depends on the level of intelligence we are looking for. Currently, we do have simple narrow-domain AI that perform better than human, however a multi-dimensional human cognition level AI is still a few decades away. We might see a trajectory of AI systems from the current exteriorized form, to a hybrid bio-AI interiorized form, to a re-exteriorized self-sufficient human-level AI form and possibly a post-human speciation later this century.

10. You’ve already hired a number of  people. What would be your pitch to folks out there to join your Organization? Why does your organization matter in the world?

Cognii offers a unique opportunity for talented individuals to advance the AI technology and make a large societal impact. Why settle for transformation of just ‘a’ particular industry, when you can transform ‘the’ industry that provides talent to all other industries? Be a part of a growing startup and get rewarded generously.

11. What are some of the best takeaways that the attendees can have from your talk?

Attendees will learn about our vision for the future of education, and get answers to questions such as how AI will impact education industry, what is a Conversational EdTech product?, what is a Virtual Learning Assistant? How schools and universities are using AI to improve the quality of education?

12. What are the top 5 AI use cases in education and corporate training industry?

Intelligent tutoring, Automatic grading and feedback, Competency based course enrollment, Job placement and training, and Knowledge organization.

13. Which company do you think is winning the global AI race?

The AI field is wide open at this stage, however certain companies have an edge over others in specific areas e.g. Google speech recognition is considered better. There are also a large number of small to medium sized companies specializing in their respective fields solving an important piece of the overall puzzle. 

14 Where can people find more information about your company?

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