Leveraging AI for Social Impact on the hello, Human Podcast

Our podcast, hello, Human, offers an open forum to discuss the latest topics in artificial intelligence (AI) and how it’s being applied in the real world. We talk with not only the pioneers of AI, but also those who are putting AI to work transforming businesses, finding novel solutions to age-old problems, and advancing what humans can accomplish.

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Episode 9 - Leveraging Technology for Social Impact
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In episode #9, we talked with Preeti Adhikary, who, at the time of recording, was still earning a Master of Advanced Management degree from Yale University. She has since graduated and now works as a venture fellow at Blue Ivy Ventures. Preeti’s experience spans roles in technology, finance, investment banking, and more, but the common thread has been her focus on humanitarian efforts. She’s also currently serving as an advisor for both Women in AI, which is working towards gender-inclusive AI that benefits society, and Humanitarian AI, which was launched to advance the humanitarian applications of AI.

Given Preeti’s background, the discussion quickly turned towards using AI for social good, to power corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, and to apply it for social justice. Of particular relevance, especially in honor of International Women’s Day, Preeti talked about her work empowering women interested in careers in AI. 

“In terms of Women in AI, one of the reasons I got involved was because I’m super, super passionate about two things: AI and women empowerment,” Preeti explained. “We believe women are not represented or do not participate in the AI sector. We’re trying to change that. One of the things we’re doing is launching an incubation program called Why Accelerate. It brings a cohort of about 40 startups, led by women or founded by women. We’re trying to help them from idea generation all the way to investment.”

Preeti works to bring diverse speakers and investors into the fold for Women in AI, which helps put more women into the spotlight as the leaders, innovators, and experts. And, when investors support these women founders and leaders, the ecosystem expands to include more women. 

Talking more broadly about AI, Preeti sought to break the misconception that career paths in AI require technical backgrounds. She’s an economist by training, with an M.B.A., too. That non-technical perspective, Preeti said, compliments what the technologists bring to the table. 

“There are tons of roles for intermediaries, where we sit between these technical people and the users, the consumers,” Preeti said. “There’s so much value non-technical people bring, not just in terms of translation of the jargon, but in terms of the creativity, the connections. Because, at the end of it, the people that buy your product or your service, they’re humans. They’re not just buying that feature, they’re buying a solution for the problem they’re facing.”

Preeti acts as a storyteller for the technologists of AI, showing how the products or services benefit humans, and crafting the tale to highlight the disruptive nature of the technology. And, with questions cropping up about bias, ethics, and diversity in AI, Preeti also sells that human story back to the technologists working on the product.

“There’s so much talk about ethics in AI, so it’s important for linguists, social scientists, marketers, to bring that diversity, not just in terms of backgrounds, but life experiences and expertise,” she explained. “The AI we build as a company, as a society, must be inclusive.”

Inclusivity was a big part of Preeti’s time at Fusemachines as VP of Marketing. The company focused on democratizing AI, but an adjacent project involved a fellowship program to teach AI in underrepresented communities around the globe. The program touched Nepal, Burkina Faso, Dominican Republic, Rwanda, and other countries, giving students valuable opportunities to learn. 

“People need opportunities, they need support, and they need mentorship to be successful,” Preeti explained. “(AI) has that impact, and if we can package mentorship and the support, maybe even the tools, we can really create an impact all over the world.”

Preeti has already created quite a global impact, and continues to embrace AI while empowering women and underrepresented communities to get involved, learn, and innovate. Just talking about AI, ethics, bias, privacy, and other issues, and doing so as a woman, and from the perspective of diversity, Preeti said she is changing AI conversations for the better. And we couldn’t agree more.

Hear our entire discussion with Preeti, including her advice “not to dismiss AI as something that’s just for a man”, on the hello, Human podcast. And, subscribe to hello, Human on your podcast app of choice, or read the full podcast transcript.