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«Artificial intelligence is not the solution to all the planet’s ills» – Carolina Bessega, CSO of Stradigi AI


Carolina Bessega, Chief Scientific Officer at Stradigi AI is an artificial intelligence (AI) ambassador. Here is the story of a women who managed to climb to the top, after having restarted at the very bottom rung of the ladder.

Carolina left Venezuela about ten years ago to immigrate to Quebec. She held a doctorate, was a university Astrophysics professor and a research lab director. She left this flourishing career to start from scratch in Montreal.

Today she’s an associate and Chief Scientific Officer at Stradigi AI, a company that offers artificial intelligence-based solutions. Astoundingly, when she started at the company in 2010, it was as an intern.

The Beginnings of Stradigi AI
Stradigi AI was not always an artificial intelligence company. In 2014, when it started to invest more energy on developing software, a client approached them with an unusual request. It couldn’t be solved the typical way because that would have required too much time and too many resources. Carolina was working in the research and development department, but the expertise she had acquired in Venezuela allowed her to conceive of a solution using artificial intelligence. Management noticed her, and they decided to take the turn toward AI.

“We started doing artificial intelligence not because it was cool, but because our clients needed it.” -Carolina Bessega

It’s a fact that artificial intelligence is THE hot topic at the moment. For Carolina Bessega, that’s great news.

“As a scientist, I’m overjoyed,” she exclaims. “I’m thrilled that there are now so many opportunities and means for us to advance our research and to innovate.”
AI is not the end-all
Media trends could make a person think that AI is the solution to all of the planet’s ills, which is obviously not the case. “I always pay attention to the projects that we take on,” the Stradigi AI scientific director explains. “I have to evaluate the problems that land on my desk and consider whether AI is the best solution.”

Beyond the marketing claims promoting artificial intelligence, we have to remember that it is a very costly solution. “AI is not cheap,” Carolina insists. “You have to make certain that the solution the technology will provide will either considerably reduce costs or generate a great deal of revenue.”

Ethics in AI
The use case is one thing to think about, but the ethics of AI is an equally important issue for Carolina. Every time an algorithm is built, the researcher wonders what its impact will be on the word, and how much power she wants to give it.

Another one of AI’s issues resides in the data it uses. It should be as free of bias as possible. “We must not discriminate,” Carolina explains. “We have to be sure to act as objectively as we can. For example, we have to use data that represents the whole population and not just one group, even if that that group is the majority.”

And that is one of the most problematic aspects of artificial intelligence. Finding enough data is already an issue, but finding bias-free data is very complex.

“Undoubtably some jobs are going to be replaced by machines, but there will also be many new careers that will come into being. We have to be intelligent enough to see this change coming and to adapt to it.” -Carolina Bessega

The Future of Artificial Intelligence
Carolina Bessega is well-positioned to observe the evolution of artificial intelligence, having been immersed in it since the year 2000. Surprisingly, the methods and they way it works are more or less the same. What has changed is its accessibility.

“Computing capacity is much larger and costs are lower. This has been a large contributor to the democratization of artificial intelligence,” the researcher explains.

When I ask her where AI is going to be in ten years she laughs!

“Ten years is an eternity. The past few years have seen AI progress at light speed! I have trouble imagining what’s going to happen in ten years. There will be much more automation, for sure, especially in factories. Undoubtedly some jobs are going to be replaced by machines, but there will also be many new careers that will come into being. We have to be intelligent enough to see this change coming and to adapt to it.”

What about women in AI?
And where are women in all of this? Carolina doesn’t like to make the distinction between women and men because, “we should all be seen identically” she suggests. That said, she is delighted to see so many women choosing careers in AI. “I’ve noticed that the gap is closing from one year to the next, and I’m convinced that one day we won’t have to talk about it any more,” she says.

The researcher ends on the number one problem of underrepresentation of women. “[Women] don’t realise how much potential there is hiding AI,” she says. It is definitely one of the many factors that explain the situation. How can you want what you don’t even know exists?

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