Cover Ayesha Khanna

Artificial intelligence solutions leader Ayesha Khanna on why cultivating our technology quotient is more important than ever

We are currently living in what can be called the Hybrid Age. This is a time where we co-exist with technology and machines, whether they’re in the form of artificial intelligence or tiny machines embedded in our smart homes. To navigate this new tech-infused environment, we need to understand what’s happening so that we can harness it to enhance our family life and careers, and to demand our rights if needed. We are all techies because we all live with technology. And it’s easy to start getting comfortable with it, by setting Google alerts for any Web3-related topics that interest you, like the metaverse, blockchain or NFTs.

New technologies open up so much potential

Never before could so many people participate in the digital economy. Web3 offers so much economic potential—it really doesn’t matter what you do as everyone will have a role along with the opportunity to make money.

For example, an artist could make an artwork or song and sell it as an NFT. As a digital asset, NFTs involve copyright law, which requires a lawyer. The digital asset has to be kept somewhere, so you need an engineer to create a digital wallet. Other people now have the opportunity to rent the NFT—for their virtual Gucci store, for instance, or to licence it as metaverse icons. People always think of Web3 in terms of Bitcoin and NFTs, but it’s more than that: it’s a rich ecosystem of economic opportunity for everyone.

And then there’s artificial intelligence, which should work to free up humans so that they can focus on higher-value objectives, like innovation. AI does this by automating processes so that people are not always answering the same question over and over again at a call centre, for example, or constantly scrambling to guess what their supply chain inventory should be.

In busy hospital settings, AI can help predict when a patient is going to have a heart attack, so doctors can intervene sooner rather than later. It can sift through a patient’s entire history of medical appointments, doctor’s notes, radiology scans, blood tests, even Fitbit data to help doctors proactively create better clinical outcomes for patients. Having AI reduces costs and human error, while making customers happy because issues are resolved or products are delivered more quickly.

Technology will always need people

Technology will never replace humans, as there will always be need for people to be involved in technology to maximise its potential. AI, for one thing, is fundamentally dependent on good-quality data, and will need people who understand data or can create a “golden source of truth” (a single source of truth from which data is constructed), which is critical to good data governance.

And because of the sheer power of technology, humans are always needed to ensure that its applications are ethical—that’s why it’s important to have a combination of technology, people and processes. For example, it was found that criminal risk assessment algorithms being used by the US criminal justice system were disproportionately targeting minority and low-income communities because they were inaccurately based on historical crime data—the biased data made for a system that perpetuated this bias against a particular group of people. Fairness metrics, along with data stewards whose job is to make sure the data is clean, meaningful and secure, are always needed to ensure that technology remains fair and just, and free from manipulation.

We have to ensure that there is space for women in Web3.

I founded 21st Century Girls in 2014 to equip girls in Singapore with the skills and knowledge they need to lead future industries, by offering free classes in coding, AI and Web3. Now we want to extend that with Squad, a global collective for Web3 that we’re about to launch. It will be the first global collective for women to learn about all things Web3—like blockchain, crypto, NFTs and the metaverse—and its members will come from all over the world.

Squad is free and will offer short courses relevant to mid-career women who want to learn how Web3 impacts their specific industry. Squad will also feature the world’s first job board for women in Web3. Most companies, especially in the US, have diversity and inclusion quotas that they need to fill, so it’s a win-win scenario for both female job-seekers and employers.

As a 2020 report by Boston Consulting Group shared, demand for digital talent in Asia outstrips the supply, with the field of cybersecurity alone facing “a shortage of approximately four million people in 2019, including 2.1 million across the Asia-Pacific region.” The leadership gains and innovation revenues that women in management bring to the workforce are well-documented. With Covid fast accelerating digital transformation in Asia’s companies, it’s now vital that we proactively educate, recruit, train and retain women in technology—the industry’s critical talent shortage demands it.


Ayesha Khanna is co-founder and CEO of Addo, an artificial intelligence solutions firm headquartered in California. She is also a strategic advisor on artificial intelligence, smart cities and fintech to leading corporations and governments.

This piece is part of a collaboration between Tatler Asia and Young Presidents’ Organisation (YPO), a global leadership community of chief executives, which counts more than thirty thousand individuals from 142 countries among its members.

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