Artificial intelligence is now hugely in use in search engines. Google and Microsoft are outwitting each other in the use of AI to enhance their search engines. Mujtaba Hussain talks to young Kashmir AI expert, Zairah Mustahsan, who works for an AI-driven search engine in the USA
People were used to discussing routine internet, searches, and social media but the technology landscape has shifted completely and now the tech debates for novices are around chatbots, Generative AI, Machine Learning (ML) digital twining, Blockchain, and Metaverse. Technologies people sleep with are shocked at breakfast as last night’s app becomes obsolete.
The ongoing fourth industrial revolution led by AI and ML is unleashing itself with a surprise every hour. Since the modern-day knowledge economy is mostly controlled by developed nations – given the massive infrastructure and talent pool, the developing part of the world is also contributing. There are a few Kashmir-born individuals who are also part of this grand change-making.
Zairah Mustahsan, a Srinagar -born data scientist and Artificial Intelligence (AI) expert currently working at a New-York based AI search engine You.com is among Kashmir’s first-generation AI professionals. They understand the evolution of technology better and fit in the model category professionals for the new generation keen to join the chatbot world.
Zairah studied at Presentation Convent Srinagar until the age of 16. She fell in love with Mathematics right from her childhood days and was intrigued by the application of mathematical equations in real life to impact human life in a positive sense. Although she was not at all aware of AI and ML and had no clue about working as an AI expert, she was very clear that maths and sciences are something she had to pursue.
After completing her secondary school education, she moved to Delhi. There she got admission into Kalka Public School, New Delhi. After completing her secondary school education, she got admission into the Birla Institute of Technology and Sciences (BITS), Ranchi, and pursued Electronics and communications engineering there. Throughout the course, she developed more and more fascination and greatly inclined herself towards Computer sciences.
Subsequently, she joined as a research fellow at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), New Delhi for a year. She worked there on some projects, which according to her were pivotal for her career advancement in AI and ML. Later, she moved to the US to pursue her Master’s in computer sciences at the University of Pennsylvania.
In the USA
Zairah worked as a Research Assistant in the Computational Genetics Lab, at Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania. She worked on different datasets and developed different ML algorithms. Meanwhile, she also worked at the Intel Corporation as a Software Engineer for a while.
Zairah said she was always active in terms of finding good internship opportunities during summer breaks. She would barely go back home and be ambitious throughout her college and University days. “I was all in all immersed in my job,” Zairah admitted.
Immediately after completing her Master’s, she joined International Business Machines (IBM) and worked there as a data scientist for almost six years. She worked on Information Retrieval and Natural Language Processing (NLP) models for intent classification, question answering, and document retrieval. She also published some papers and registered a number of patents as well.
Zairah joined You.com in 2022 and is currently working along with her team to build the next big thing in searches. You.com is a multimodal AI search engine, which is more sophisticated, and easy, and is building the next big thing in the search industry.
Challenges in AI
Talking to Kashmir Life, Zairah identified many mathematical challenges that come in the way of AI. The first is a large corpus of data required to train the AI models, and the second is the hardware challenge because a great hardware capability is required to train these models efficiently.
The AI-based companies that came up in the recent past along with the holistic academic research in the field laid down a very good foundation for the next big thing that is coming up.
Zairah has also volunteered with the Women in Data Science (WIDS) worldwide, in California to elevate women in the field of data science, and with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to engage with NASA’s big data, learn and enhance data skills, and build community. She had also worked with a US-based Non-profit called Kashmir Education Initiative (KEI) as a mentor to provide education and opportunities for children living back home.
“Every revolution is an opportunity to move to another kind of world with better opportunities and creativity. Initially, the AI-based chatbots will create a certain anxiety but eventually, we will reach a point when humans will get used to them to focus on complex and innovative things,” Zairah said when asked about the impact that AI will have on the job market. “Humanity will continue to exist but we have to think of other kinds of skill sets and new areas where we will apply this new technology. There will definitely be a change in the job landscape but people should think of pragmatic and more practical ways to develop modern skill sets in order to become irreplaceable and irrelevant”.
Apart from her interests in AI, ML, and data science, Zairah is also an avid reader of history, literature, and philosophy. She has a keen interest in Kashmiri literature as well.
According to Zairah, the work and scientific advancements that have happened during the last decade or more have laid the foundation for the generative pre-trained transformer models that people have now. In the coming days, the world will see more and more application-based AI models that will ease the ways people work, communicate, and transact.