Hi Manan! We are excited to have this conversation with you and learn about your world of all things tech. So let's get started!
1. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the buzzword at the moment. What are your views on AI and Machine Learning?
Indeed, AI & ML are buzzwords at the moment. But they are slowly starting to become the norm in a lot of sectors, including healthcare, automotive, defence and security, consumer electronics, retail, logistics to name a few. In the most basic sense, AI can be looked at as the maturity of the so-called conventional “software.” When conventional software starts to become more intelligent, capable of stimuli-driven evolution, it enters the realm of AI. ML is an extremely valuable computational toolkit or resource to deal with ever-increasing, data-intensive problems.
2. How has AI evolved in the last decade, and how do you think it will change our lives in the future?
The way I look at it, the key evolutionary aspect leading to present day and future AI/ML lies in development of powerful computational electronic hardware and architectures. Dedicated hardware platforms are the enabling engines for resource-efficient implementation of AI/ML paradigms.
AI/ML has already begun to positively transform human lives. Thanks to AI, our interaction with technology will become extremely personalised with time. Software will become programming-free, machines will develop true perception, and humans will have more reliable and intelligent decision-making buddies working alongside. The nature of future jobs and the requisite manpower skillset for any country will change drastically. AI/ML will help transform businesses and services by picking up crucial and valuable trends from massive troves of data in real-time.
3. Do you believe in the Elon Musk's school of thought, that AI should be controlled as it can harm if not validated, or Mark Zuckerberg’s view, that there is no reason to worry and AI should expand uncontrollably?
In my personal opinion, we are not yet at the stage where AI should be feared. Restricting R&D or exploration in AI at this point of time will only hurt the technical community and end users. However, given the evolving and less mature state of the technology, it is advisable that caution be observed on some aspects. For sensitive situations and infrastructure, AI alone should not be the sole decision-maker. It should either assist a human decision-maker or have human redundancy. And resources should be invested for developing AI Ethics.
4. You are leading a research group at IIT. What kind of technologies are you working on?
Our group at IIT-Delhi works on the research and development of advanced semiconductor non-volatile memory (NVM) technology. Our work involves design and the use of exotic nano devices or nano circuits for several applications, dedicated AI/ML hardware being one of them. We focus extensively on the design of a specific class of biologically-inspired AI/ML architectures known as Neuromorphic Hardware.
5. Electrical engineering is a field that most people know very little about. How did you become interested in it?
My interest in Electrical engineering arose out of love for physics and fascination with nanotechnology. Present-day Electrical engineering is one of the most versatile and opportunity-rich fields, due to its highly interdisciplinary nature.
6. You have studied and taught in the universities abroad as well as India. What are some of the things Indian Universities can learn from their counterparts abroad?
In my view, at least in terms of theoretical content, the premier Indian Institutes are at par with their counterparts abroad. In terms of research infrastructure, India has a lot to catch up on. The Indian education model has scope to improve the amount of experiential and practical content in its curriculum. More open-ended technical projects, more teamwork driven assignments and more real-world technical case studies are required.
7. What do you enjoy most about teaching at IIT Delhi?
The intellect, aptitude and curiosity of IIT-D students keeps me on my toes and doesn’t let the teaching experience stagnate. The number of students getting interested in tech-oriented research is only increasing, which is encouraging for me as a teacher.
8. Did you think about teaching in a University abroad? Why did you decide to move back?
I always wanted to work in India for India. I have travelled extensively, lived and worked all across the globe. Every place had its own charm and challenges. But I was clear that I wanted to live and work in India in the long term, all along.
9. You work in a space that’s very niche. Did you always know that you wanted to do what you’re doing today?
There have been some broad choices such as interest in technology and research, but finding out what I want to do has always been a very instantaneous or ‘in-the-moment’ question for me. I believe that niche cannot be pre-planned. It begins to emerge as we dive deeper and spend more hours in any field.
10. You also dabbled with a HealthTech startup. Tell us your learnings from that experience.
We successfully co-founded a health-tech startup, which later won the NASSCOM “code-for-billion” program. The initiative taught me aspects of business development like team-building and understanding market factors. I am no longer actively working on the startup,, but have a lot of interesting learnings from that experience.
Dr. Manan Suri is an Assistant Professor at the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi. He studied at Cornell University and received his PhD in Nanotechnology from Institut Polytechnique de Grenoble, France.