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Meet the AI scientist who invented gender-neutral robot Pegg

Kriti Sharma is one of the world's leading artificial intelligence technologists - and she is the brains behind the world's first accounting chatbot.

Kriti Sharma

Sharma displayed her talents early on, growing up in Rajasthan, India, where she was building robots and computers from spare parts by the time she was 15. Impressive though that was, her talents weren’t to be limited to mechanical aptitude. Now just 31, Sharma has proved herself a leader in how we think about artificial intelligence.

As the Vice President of AI and Ethics at Sage Group (one of the UK’s largest tech firms) and a United Nations Advisor, she’s helped shape the conversation around AI, shifting it from portentous predictions of the AI-pocalypse to recognition of the need to include disadvantaged groups in AI’s evolutionary process.

One of her most profound causes is gender inequality in AI. Sharma points to the imposition of gender on AI systems, which is often derived by association between the system’s function and traditional gender roles. As Sharma has pointed out, Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri are female-coded, and are associated with helpful, life-admin tasks, whereas IBM Watson and Salesforce Einstein are charged with important business decisions and are male-coded.

In order to combat this, Sharma designed a gender-neutral AI called Pegg to function as a virtual CFO or head of HR by performing basic admin. She hopes it will fight the trend of AI being assigned human characteristics, such as gender.

As founder of AI for Good, Sharma has been behind initiatives such as rAInbow, a chatbot designed to provide support to victims of unhealthy or abusive relationships.
It’s designed to be a non-judgemental companion and can even help determine if a relationship is abusive, while offering exit plans and contacts. AI for Good has also produced SnehAI, a tool for providing information on sexual and reproductive health to adolescents.

And these are just two examples of AI’s transformative power, both for women specifically and for society as a whole, and how Sharma herself has been championing this potential. Her focus is not on the dangers of AI, but its capacity for social good.

Sharma’s many achievements, insights and contributions to the field have been recognised numerous times: she made the Financial Times’ list of the Top 100 minority ethnic leaders in technology, became a United Nations Young Leader in 2018 and was also included in Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in Technology.

Honourable mention

Fabiola Gianotti

As an Italian particle physicist and CERN’s first female Director-General, Gianotti is paving the way for other women in the STEM fields. She believes that “diversity is an asset of humanity … and we have to use it in the best possible way”.

Fabiola Gianotti

Ho Weang Kee

This Malaysian statistician is an Associate Professor of statistics at the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus. In 2018, Ho received the L’Oréal-UNESCO International Rising Talent Award in recognition of her groundbreaking work developing a predictive model to identify the risk of breast cancer in South-East Asian women.

Ho Weang Kee

From CEOs and politicians to humanitarians and athletes, we profile 30 extraordinary trailblazers creating major change in 2020. Kriti Sharma, Fabiola Gianotti and Ho Weang Kee are among the iconic women we’re celebrating this International Women’s Day.

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