A Kids Book About: The Podcast

Neha Talks About AI

Episode Summary

Neha Shulka, author of A Kids Book About Sleep, talks about AI and its powerful potential.

Episode Notes

Neha Shulka, author of A Kids Book About Sleep, talks about AI and its powerful potential.

A Kids Book About AI (view book)

Full Book Description:

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a powerful technology that’s transforming our world today. We can run from it, or we can understand it and use it to reimagine a more innovative and inclusive future. This author introduces the topic for kids and grownups, providing an entry point to make better sense of the power and possibilities of AI.

About the Author:

Neha Shukla (she/her) is 18 years old and an inventor, social entrepreneur, activist, and AI ethicist at the World Economic Forum. Her work developing tech for social good is recognized in the New York Times, Forbes, Harper’s Bazaar, Bloomberg, and commended by President Biden and the British Royal Family.

Episode Transcription

A Kids Book About: The Podcast

Neha Talks About AI



Matthew: What is AI?

Lena: I guess a thing on the internet that, like, if you ask it questions or tell it to tell a story, tell it to do anything, it'll do it and try to do it in human ways. 

Neha: AI stands for Artificial Intelligence. And it' s a tool that helps computers identify patterns, solve problems, and make decisions using lots of data.

But, what does this actually mean? 

AI is written by people typing on their computers called developers, and they write algorithms, which are pretty much instructions for telling the computer what to do. With AI, computers can do tons of different things, from translating languages, to creating brand new computer generated art, to identifying diseases by looking at lung scans, it's something that has the potential for so much positive change.

And that's why it's important for us to look at AI to see how we can build AI algorithms that make our world a better place instead of harming it. 

Matthew: Welcome to A Kids Book About: The Podcast!  I’m Matthew. I’m a teacher, a librarian, and I’m your host. 

The voices you heard just a moment ago were from Lena and Neha. 

Each week we talk about the big things going on in your world with a different author from our A Kids Book About series. 

Neha: Hi, everyone. My name is Neha Shukla. I'm 19 years old. I'm an inventor, AI ethicist, student, and someone who cares really deeply about the future. And I'm the author of A Kids Book About AI. 



Matthew: Hello, listeners! Today’s topic feels futuristic. And it kind of is. But it is also the technology of right now. And with technology developing so rapidly, we need to make sure that we are developing and using the tools in a safe way. 

You heard Neha say she was an AI ethicist a moment ago. Neha, what does being an AI ethicist look like for you?

Neha: I serve on the World Economic Forum's Generation AI Youth Council. So it's a group of young people collaborating with policymakers and companies to make sure that we're building AI algorithms that protect young people. So really looking at the ethics and making sure that the algorithms we're building are creating positive futures for young people. 

So that's really what being an ethicist kind of looks like. 

Matthew: I love when we talk about being able to see the topic play out in the real world. It gives you a chance to look for and notice these big ideas in a real life context. 

This is what perseverance looks or sounds like. This is what acts of humanitarianism look like. This is kindness in action. 

But AI is a little different. We see the impact of AI, but there’s a lot we don’t see.



Neha: AI is invisible. everywhere in our world and we don't even realize it. AI is in every time we type a Google search, every time Spotify recommends us new music to listen to, every time we go on social media platforms and they recommend us new people to be friends with.

And most recently, you might've heard of it… ChatGPT is a new AI tool that is working on generative AI, which is a tool that generates brand new text and images based on lots and lots of data of what people have written before. So lots of people have begun using ChatGPT for things like writing emails, finding new recipes, um, and drafting up papers.

There are many consequences of these AI technologies and they, their effects on society are sometimes things that we might not understand yet.

Matthew: We might not yet understand the effects that AI technologies are having on society, but these effects are happening nonetheless. And like anything, there are good things about these effects, but there are also qualities that should give us pause.

Neha: AI affects everyone. But more specifically, certain elements of AI can affect some people more than others. If we look at facial recognition technology is where AI looks at people's faces and uses it to identify people for certain things, anything from whether a person committed a crime or not, or matching somebody at an airport, it can have really detrimental consequences for people of color, women of color, and people whose faces are underrepresented in these AI algorithms training data. So what you can see is having lots of people of color getting wrongfully arrested for crimes they didn't commit simply because AI algorithms aren't trained on their data.

So it's important to kind of see those effects. 

Another big group of people that are being affected by AI algorithms is actually young people. To all the kids listening right now, you are part of the generation that will be deeply impacted by AI algorithms.

If you're already on social media, or if you plan on being in the future, AI algorithms are driving social media. And so we're seeing a rise of edited, filtered, and fake content, rather than genuine and authentic content, which is leading to a massive rise in the mental health crisis, where young people are experiencing rates of things like depression, anxiety, and eating disorders at higher rates than ever before.

So it is up to us to understand and look into AI, not just for the positive changes it can bring to society before the real damage it can do. 

Matthew: Let’s take a quick break. And when we return, Neha will talk about the things AI can do that cannot be done as fast or as cheaply, or as well by humans. And, on the flipside, the things that AI cannot do because they really require the human touch. 

Neha: AI has so much potential for positive change. I mean, if we look at artificial intelligence, algorithms are starting to be used for things like drug discovery, which is where they're looking at tons of data on genetics and protein folding and seeing how can we make, um, medicines that can save the lives of so many people. 

We can see AI algorithms finding ways to make buildings more efficient to tackle the climate crisis. 

We're seeing AI being used for things like equalizing the gender pay gap by analyzing tons and tons of data and seeing if there is a relationship in certain companies with female employees being paid less than male employees. 

So there are many ways that AI algorithms can contribute towards positive change. And it's exciting to see that. AI can help solve some of our world's greatest challenges, as long as we approach it with the right mindset and make sure that we're using AI to tackle the root cause problem. 

Matthew: We’ll be back in just a moment.



Matthew: Welcome back.

Today on the podcast we’re talking about AI with A Kids Book About author Neha Shukla.

You, as a human, are unique. You cannot and will not ever be replaced by AI. There are processes and functions and tools that AI are incorporated into that help in various ways, but AI is not capable of making accidental imperfections. That’s a quality all-too human and it’s something that cannot be mimicked. 

Neha: I love the point that you brought up about the value of human imperfections. And I think it's really important for us to understand that AI can never think like a human being. AI can never be creative. 

And when you really dig into the research on this, you stumble upon the concept of what is human intelligence? What is, how does that work? And you'll learn about a concept called abductive inference. 

There are many ways of thinking that build up, um, what is human intelligence. And one really key part of it is something called abductive inference. What it means is a human being's ability to look at a situation, look at a problem, guess, make an inference, make a hypothesis about something that is possibly not based on any data at all. That's based on imagination. That's based on something that could probably be very, very wrong, but you have the ability to look at a situation, have an extremely imaginative guess, and then go back to your hypothesis, iterate on that, and come up with something new. That is something that computers are fundamentally unable to do. They're able to do something called inductive i nference and deductive inference, but never abductive. And that is fundamentally the way that computers are built. 

So for us to be worried about AI algorithms replacing artists and writers and so many other jobs, I believe the power is in our hands for deciding these decisions. We can decide to not be active consumers of AI generated writing. We can decide not to support AI generated art at museums. It is our decision if we want to be supporting and funding because every eyeball, every click, every impression, every time we decide to make a purchase, those are decisions that are casting a vote one way or the other.

It's up to us. If we want to say, you know, I'm supporting small businesses, I'm supporting women owned businesses, people of color owned businesses. Or I'm supporting a large corporation that's profiting off of these people and not paying them. 

So it's really exciting to realize that. At the end of the day, when it comes to, um, the core quality of our content, AI can never really replace human beings. So it's up to us to make those decisions and make sure we're building a future that we want to live in. 

Matthew: Okay. Okay. 

At this point you may be having all sorts of feelings around AI and its impact as well as its possibilities. So let’s check in. 

How does thinking about AI or using AI make you feel? 

Turn to a partner, a sibling, or a grownup and share your answer. Then ask them to share theirs. And if you’re listening to this podcast with headphones or alone, you can think the answer or share it aloud with me. I may not be able to hear you, but I promise that I am always listening. 

How does thinking about AI or using AI make you feel? 

Lena: It's kind of fun because you can, like, ask it random questions.

Neha: I feel actually really excited and really optimistic. Despite all the challenges that we're seeing in the AI world right now, all the confusion, all of the chaos, I still feel really optimistic. And the reason I think is knowing that we're at a really huge inflection point, a really big turning point for AI. 

And so us, as young people,the ability for us to, to know about AI, to see government action happening, companies rallying together in terms of AI development, AI ethics, is exciting. We're in an age where right now our voices matter. And so. Despite the direction of AI development right now, I'm excited because I know that my perspectives, my voice matters. And so does yours, to everybody listening. You being aware of AI, understanding its role in society, understanding the positive and negative things it's capable of, is so important.

So crucial. We need you. We need critical thinkers. We need people who are ready to ask questions and challenge the status quo, not be afraid to say, you know, “Why is that the way it is? I don't like the way that that is.” And really be excited to change things. I think that's the best way that we see progress.

And so I feel excited because I see this movement of young people who are really standing up and determining, you know, what is, what is it that we want AI to be used for? How are the ways that we can make sure AI is being built more equitably, more responsibly? And that just makes me very excited about this movement in general.

Matthew: Our time’s almost up. I’m about to send you back out into the world. So let’s think about how we’ll use what we learned today in order to step out into that world in a more intentional and, perhaps, meaningful way.

Neha, are there any actions we, the listeners, can take to be more mindful of the presence of AI in our lives and the impact it has on our ability to focus, to complete tasks, and to solve the world’s problems?

Neha: Your voice and your perspective matters. This is a conversation where we need everybody's thoughts and opinions. And you as young people, living as generation AI, deserve to have a stake in the conversation.

So really being somebody who's aware about AI, who's thinking about it. And then sparking conversations in your classroom. Ask your teachers what they think about AI. Ask your peers and classmates. Would you ever write your homework assignments using AI? What's your thought process behind that? What makes you want to do that? Asking questions and being really open to hearing people's perspectives. When you do that, you can prepare yourself for future, of really making change in this movement from being a developer of AI algorithms that are ethical and responsibly designed to advocating on a legislative level for policies and action that protects people using AI algorithms, to creating art, dance, and music to represent your thoughts about the scene of AI. There are so many ways for you to combine your passions and what you're excited about in this field to make sure your voice is being heard. 



Matthew: Thank you to Neha Shukla, author of A Kids Book About AI, for joining us today. And special thanks to Lena for lending their voice to this episode.

Lena: My name is Lina. I am 10 years old and I live in Massachusetts. My favorite thing is to do musicals, sing, and, basically, stuff like that. 

Matthew: A Kids Book About: The Podcast is written, edited, and produced by me, Matthew Winner. Our executive producer is Jelani Memory. 

And this show was brought to you by A Kids Co. 

Follow the show wherever podcasts are found and check out other podcasts made for kids just like you by visiting akidsco.com.