How AI Will Advance Science And Society: Local Student And Researcher From Harvard To Share Her Story

Maya Burhanpurkar says AI has the potential to really impact society in a very beneficial way

How AI (artificial intelligence) and machine learning will advance science and society is up for discussion at the Five Points Theatre on Thursday evening.

Part of the AI Shaping our Future series, the Barrie Public Library has invited Maya Burhanpurkar to speak, a third-year physics student and researcher at Harvard University, who is originally from Horseshoe Valley.

The thought of AI becoming part of our daily lives rattles a lot of people, even though Burhanpurkar says it’s already everywhere.

“It’s in your car. It’s in your phone. AI has the potential to really impact society in a very beneficial way.”

Burhanpurkar is working on several research projects including being part of a team that is developing an autonomous wheelchair for people who have lost their mobility.

“The underlying software is a kind of AI that is able to synthesize data from many different sensors that are attached to the wheelchair, and allow it to simultaneously map its surroundings, while also localizing itself within the map, and also autonomously navigating the user from one location to the other.”

So, just what is AI? Even within the academic community, Burhanpurkar says there isn’t a consensus of what it is. She says part of the problem is that we don’t know what intelligence is.

“We really don’t know what parts of our brain or our nervous system actually generates intelligence. And we don’t know what that is in other animals, so actually defining AI is very difficult.”

She says it is basically anything that can interpret a wide range of data and then make decisions based on it.

Burhanpurkar gets excited talking about a Google Health study released earlier this month which found AI appeared to outperform expert radiologists in accurately interpreting mammograms—the X-rays routinely used to check for breast cancer–and reported fewer false positives.

China has already presented the world with an AI newsreader, while there is a growing fear that AI will overtake people’s jobs.

Burhanpurkar says the possibility of AI replacing workers in jobs that are redundant can’t be ruled out.

She says AI has the potential to do some harm, adding there are environmental implications and security implications.

In her discussion on Thursday, Burhanpurkar says she will explain the main types of AI and machine learning and how they are relevant to our daily lives, and how she uses AI and machine learning on a daily basis as a researcher.

“Whether we like it or not, it’s part of lives.”

Burhanpurkar’s discussion is Thursday, January 16 at the Five Points Theatre, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tickets are $12.

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banner image of Maya Burhankpurkar via Barrie Public Library