Our society needs a community of diverse thinkers that can together shape the future of Artificial Intelligence from an ethical, social and business standpoint !
Animesh Jain, our next pathbreaker, works as Research Manager at MKAI, an AI community that aims to connect diverse minds and deliver impactful community-led projects that make artificial intelligence (AI) more inclusive, accessible and rooted in sustainable human values.
Animesh talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about realising the complexity of developing a policy around these new-age transformative technologies, and the need to conceptualize a basic roadmap for it to develop in the right direction.
For students, AI has thrown up more question than answers. You can play a significant role in ensuring an equitable society for everyone !
Animesh, what were your early years like?
I grew up in a small town called Dhampur in UP, where I did my studies till 10th. Then I moved to Bhiwadi, Rajasthan for my further schooling – I took science with math there. The only thing I knew at that point was that ‘I don’t want to do engineering’ like all of my friends and people around me were doing.
My mother is a housewife and my father was a businessman, he passed away when I was in my 10th standard. I have 3 elder sisters in different professions (software engineer, electrical engineer and in the clothing industry), but I had not thought about my career path at that point. Growing up, I was into cricket and basketball and definitely had thought of taking it up professionally like most kids my age.
What did you do for graduation/post graduation?
For my graduation, I moved to Delhi, and completed my bachelors in Political Science (Hons) from Dyal Singh evening college, Delhi University. Though I was inclined to take Chemistry Hons, due to some issues, I was only left with the option of political science. I took it up, knowing it was a complete new stream for me, and decided to prepare for UPSC exams. As a part of my preparation, I started reading ‘The Hindu’ religiously everyday and got interested in World Politics and International Relations. Theories and philosophies that I was reading in my classes made me curious about how these things play out in the real world.
I researched more and decided to study further and found a course at Sciences Po university, Paris in International Security with specialization in China & East Asia and Diplomacy.
How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career?
During my 2nd semester at Sciences Po, I took up a course called ‘Science Diplomacy’ that got me interested in this field. I had written a paper for this course, comparing the start-up ecosystems of China and India. During the research for this paper, I was introduced to the concept of how science and politics interact and change the course of direction of international Politics.
Based on this newfound interest I had some very deep conversations with my colleagues and professors on the complexity of developing a policy around these new-age transformative technologies. And this had set me up for taking this further.
How did you plan the steps to get into the career you wanted? Tell us about your career path
For the 3rd semester of my masters, I interned at ORF (Observer Research Foundation) where I published my 1st paper on comparing the AI policies of India and China. Then I interned with NSDC and learned about the importance of skill development for these new-age technologies and the difference between policies on paper and policies on the ground. I then started working part-time for a consultancy firm based out of Tianjin, China – that was providing research expertise to technology companies to expand in South Asian markets.
I used to do sector-specific research. For example – for a battery producing company that wants to invest in India, I used to study the battery industry of India, government’s regulations for it (national as well as state), new developments, future aspects etc. Besides this, I also used to make specific reports on new policies related to FDI, international trade etc. and keep track of domestic political developments and bilateral relations development and their impact on businesses.
With all these introductory experiences in India, China and Europe in the field, I came back to Paris for my final semester and tried to focus on all my papers for different courses in this field.
After my masters (peak of Covid), I moved to Berlin with a friend and was struggling to land a job while my part-time work still supported some of my living expenses.
I moved back to India and joined a Geopolitical advisory firm called ‘Kubernein Initiative’ where my research work was focused on the implementation of some environment-related programs. On the side, I was researching for my paper with ICS (Institute of Chinese Studies), as China has always been a focus and interest of study for me. Finally, I made a move and started my job as a Research Manager with MKAI – an inclusive AI community. And now my work completely focuses on the intersection of policy and AI.
How did you get your first break?
I got all my breaks and opportunities through networking, and now I firmly believe that networking can definitely introduce you to opportunities and career paths you never even knew existed before.
What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?
A complete stream change in my graduation – coming from a PCM background, it was very difficult for me to get used to the long theories of political sciences. I slowly got used to it by developing the hobby of ‘reading’ – which was very difficult for me at that point.
Arranging the funds for my masters – I took a bank loan and also took help from family and friends. It was very difficult due to very limited resources.
Surviving the Covid wave – Graduating in the year 2020 was a very difficult challenge to overcome, the job market was ruined, moreover being in a foreign country had created additional pressure due to the mounting loans. I used to send out 100s of emails every week and countless job applications. But I believed in myself and the friendships I had made and knew I could get through anything.
Where do you work now?
I work for MKAI – an inclusive AI community, based out of the UK, with a very diverse team working from all parts of the world. We aim to connect diverse minds and deliver impactful community-led projects that make artificial intelligence (AI) more inclusive, accessible and rooted in sustainable human values.
What problems do you solve as AI Research manager?
We are working on a book related to digital trust and new business models based on this. I am also responsible for developing the content and research independently for MKAI along with our partners.
The target audience for my work are policymakers, industry leaders, AI ethicists and the huge AI community that MKAI serves. Besides businesses, we do several engagements with different governments and universities as well.
Our mission is to connect diverse minds and deliver impactful community-led projects that make AI more inclusive, accessible and rooted in sustainable human values. We train and empower stakeholders to provide risk identification for AI systems and algorithms. We also provide consultancy for organisations that want to build digital and algorithmic trust with their users, stakeholders and communities that could be impacted by their AI. We also provide the data and information needed for companies to create effective strategies for trustworthy AI systems.
Besides this, we provide advisory services to help leaders create a holistic data and AI strategy that goes beyond technology and has equality, diversity and inclusion at the heart of the plan. We work with leaders to build right and attract economic investment.
Incorporating artificial intelligence into a business can be difficult for small to medium businesses. Via educational institutions, clusters and membership organisations, MKAI works directly with SMBs to help them understand and implement AI and other emerging technologies such as Virtual Reality and Blockchain.
So for the future, through our work, we aim to develop an inclusive community of diverse thinkers that can together shape the future of Artificial Intelligence.
What skills are needed in your role? How did you acquire the skills?
Besides the basic knowledge of policy-making and the developments in the field of new-age technologies like AI and Web 3.0, through continuous reading, the other skills needed are – Technical knowledge, ability to further develop research, ability to design and deliver a mixed methodology for research and evaluation contracts, ability and flexibility to understand and develop knowledge about different topics and to further correlate it.
During my masters, I was able to develop these skills by writing research papers and through the guidance of my professors. Continuous practice, publishing through different mediums and collaborating with experts has also helped.
What’s a typical day like?
My typical day involves a lot of reading of different research papers and articles. It also involves a lot of calls/meetings/interviews with the industry experts, for understanding, discussing new ideas and developments.
What is it you love about this job?
The best part about this job is that you never stop learning, there is always something new that you are learning about.
How does your work benefit society?
The sheer amount of impact that you can make on how to shape society in the future through your opinions and expertise is a big enough inspiration to pursue a field like this.
Moreover, when we are moving towards a society where technology is going to be a part of every aspect of life, we have to be very careful in conceptualizing the basic roadmap for it to develop in the right direction.
Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!
I think all of my papers – published or unpublished that I have spent time on represents my opinions and defines me as a person of who I am. So all those written papers are very close to me.
Your advice to students based on your experience?
I think when working on your career paths, you don’t have to be very rigid or specific about things or even know the answer to all the questions. Everything that happens in your life brings a lot of opportunities with it, you just need to follow what you enjoy working on the most.
After gaining some experience in this field, I would love to pursue my PhD.