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Artificial Intelligence and the Death of Indian IT Sector

Source | LinkedIn : By Harpreet Singh

Harpreet Singh, PhD, is the Founder and Co-CEO of Experfy, a Harvard-incubated consulting marketplace and training platform helping enterprises upskill their workforce in AI, IoT, and the technologies of the future. As the world’s largest vetted AI platform with 30,000 data scientists, Experfy is uniquely positioned to leverage its industry thought leaders to help enterprises create their workforce of the future. Backed by Peter Diamandis, Experfy is a 2017 Gartner Cool Vendor in Data Science and Machine Learning.

Over the last 25 years, India has emerged as an important destination for information technology—the low-cost counterpart for IT services that China is to low-cost manufacturing. But the low-end IT services niche that India occupies is highly vulnerable to the next phase of technological disruption in automation and artificial intelligence as novel capabilities such as self-repairing code reduce the need for the large-scale deployment of cheap IT professionals. Voice-enabled everything and increasing customization will make near-sourcing both practical and desirable which in turn lessens if not eliminates demand for the call centers that India has become famous for. Fully 69% of the jobs in India are at risk of displacement due to the emerging revolution in artificial intelligence and automation. India’s IT industry which is based upon a strong and perhaps excessive commitment to the study of highly technical subjects in its schools and universities needs to adapt to a new era in which technical acumen must be balanced with the creative insights and empathy that flow from the study of the humanities. It is the latter skillset that empowers one to climb the value chain to become a software architect rather than a tester; a systems designer rather than a low-end coder; a creator of content rather than a grunt IT worker.

The tragic disappearance of the humanities from India is real. In his famous essay, “Crisis in the Classics,” Columbia University Professor Sheldon Pollock provided a cautionary note by showing that there exist no notable centers of learning in India that teach the classical languages in which South Asia once produced some of the most subtle knowledge that this world had ever seen. According to Pollock:

[I]f Indian education and scholarship continue along their current trajectory, the number of citizens capable of reading and understanding the texts and documents of the classical era…will very soon approach a statistical zero. India is about to become the only major world culture whose literary patrimony, and indeed history, are in the custodianship of scholars outside the country: in Berkeley, Chicago, and New York; Oxford, Paris, and Vienna.

The importance of the study of humanities to spark human creativity cannot be overstated. Despite the banishment of education in liberal arts, this capacity for creativity is not alien to India as it is self-evident in the numerous examples of “jugaad” innovation that the poor routinely manifest in order to survive. However, this can take one only so far and there must be a conscious, institutional effort to refocus the educational priorities of the country. Just like the effort that led to the establishment of the Indian Institutes of Technology, there is an urgent need to establish national institutes of humanities and classical studies to reinvent India’s educational system.

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