The very foundation of AI was an attempt to reproduce the mechanism of human thought via symbols and artificial means. An innate desire to understand and therefore comprehend how the brain thinks has initiated a discipline that underwent a domino effect to surge to the heights it is today and reach further elevations in the near future.
This Wednesday (Sept 2) IIT Delhi announced the establishment of an independent AI school on the campus. IIT Delhi, as we know, has already been ranked No. 1 in the country for its high-quality publications on AI for the last ten years. The School of Artificial Intelligence (ScAI) is believed to cement the position of the institute not only in India but globally. The Ph.D. program is supposed to start from the next admission cycle while a Master's course is still being planned. It is the 6th school set up by IIT D and will have a broad spectrum research trajectory and diverse educational pursuit. Prof. Mausam, the Head of ScAI said that the school shall be driven by the core faculty members --people who consider AI or its application in various domains as their main area of research. At present, many faculty members from the institute are likely to take joint appointments in ScAI. The school also plans to hire at least 20 core faculty members in the next ten years. Apart from that, it will also have joint and adjunct faculty members who could also be experts from the industry or faculty from other departments. The few key objectives powering the ScAI are:
- To bring together the more than fifty IIT Delhi faculty members individually invested in various aspects of the field. With this, ScAI expects to act as a force multiplier for overall research productivity.
- To provide external branding to IIT Delhi in this field of immense importance. A cohesive group in AI will allow focused hiring of faculty members and students to increase global visibility. It will become a one-stop center for industry or government interested in collaborating or funding AI innovations.
- To provide a platform for industry, government and civil society entities to share their domain problems, which will then be matched with IIT Delhi faculty with the relevant technical/ analytical expertise.
- To initiate educational programs focused on AI. Initially, the focus will be on the postgraduate level. After achieving a critical mass of core AI researchers, professional level educational programs will be introduced.
Artificial Intelligence has captured the imagination of the entire world with its potential ability to solve complex societal problems of our times: universal access to healthcare and education, efficient transportation, increased efficiency in providing e-governance services to the public and many more. The Government of India has also initiated a widespread discussion on how India should strive to be among the top nations in the world in the AI ecosystem. In this regard, many top institutes in India have already started educating the students in this field. B.tech course in AI in IIT Hyderabad and M.Tech course in IISc Bangalore are examples of some programs being offered to students from last year. ScAI is taking it a step further to provide a Ph.D. program from the next academic year (2021).
The commencement of this course will boost new possibilities for researchers in the country as over 50 IIT Delhi faculty members with expertise in the field of AI will come together. While the focus initially will be on generating postgraduate level courses, the school aims at churning out professional-level educational programs. ScAI will be completely multi-disciplinary in nature. Several academic disciplines and professional specialists will be involved in the program. The flexible faculty model of ScAI will enhance the learning process. CBSE has announced to introduce courses in cognitive sciences and artificial intelligence from class 9 after this academic session. The programs offered by ScAI will definitely attract interested students to get involved in research and innovate in India.
The curriculum of ScAI will focus on bringing students to the forefront of AI research and development. To ensure the broadness in the research areas and multi-disciplinary academic extents, ScAI will also look for some organizations and universities which are working enthusiastically in the field of AI. In the future, they will collaborate with various partners from India and abroad. “We are also looking for external partners to help shape this new school into a world-class entity”, said Prof. Mausam.
Prof V. Ramgopal Rao, Director, IIT Delhi said that the present degrees in this field in India are broad-based and therefore, make it difficult for students to gain detailed knowledge about various subfields of AI. As the demand for experienced AI practitioners increases by the day, every country is investing heavily in this field to get ahead in the race. A nation’s progress shall depend on its AI capability as AI is indeed the tech of the future. However, India lags behind in the overall quality and quantity of AI research. IIT Delhi expects ScAI to fill this very gap.