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December 14, 2015

OpenAI: AI for All

Posted by Dr. Vishal Sikka (View Profile | View All Posts) at 3:19 AM

Recently, we saw the announcement about the birth of OpenAI, a non-profit organization to develop and advance Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies, and share these in the greater good. We are a part of this very exciting endeavor, and I've been asked tons of questions in the last 24 hours about this, so I thought I'll write some thoughts down.

Why OpenAI?

A few weeks ago, Marvin Minsky, one of the fathers of Artificial Intelligence (AI), the one who gave the field its first definition -- that AI is "the science of making machines do things that would require intelligence if done by men" -- made a few sobering statements about the state-of-the-art in AI. Indeed I felt sad listening to this giant lament the lack of fundamental progress in the field, and highlight some of the underlying causes. And this despite all the buzz and hype AI work has picked up lately. Marvin is one of the truly great human beings and scientists, whose teachings and advice helped influence my life and led me to focus on AI in my grad studies and beyond. So more than anything else, I see OpenAI as an opportunity to "do something about it".

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June 21, 2015

Our Potential

Posted by Dr. Vishal Sikka (View Profile | View All Posts) at 1:01 PM

Lufthansa Boeing 747-8
Lufthansa Boeing 747-8

I write this onboard a beautiful Lufthansa Boeing 747-8, the latest incarnation of the magnificent plane that was born around the same time I was, and has evolved through these decades in a timeless manner (indeed when I envisioned timeless software, the 747 was one of my examples and inspirations, and that was before the 747-8!). It makes me even more proud that a brilliant team of Infoscions helped design many key parts and systems of this amazing machine, as Kent Johnson, then design chief, shared with our clients and partners at our Confluence event in April. It is International Yoga Day today, and as the PM has so eloquently stated, a great way for us to look after our health and well-being, and to bring a focus and purpose, a "yog", to our endeavors. It is also Father's day. A day to celebrate our dads, our children, and our greater responsibilities, in nurturing our children's potential and in living up to our dad's dreams for us. I am especially missing being at home today.

I'm on my way to Bangalore for our AGM, and reflecting on journeys, their beginnings and ends. Mr. Kamath, my mentor and (now former) Infosys Chairman, and a key influence in my joining Infosys, stepped down to take over as the first President of the BRICS New Development Bank. He is an amazing man, a natural leader, a unique combination of spirituality and practicality, of great vision and dreams, and great execution and discipline. As happy as I am to see him lead this great new institution for humanity, I will really miss him. And Mr. R Seshasayee took over as our chairman from him. In the last year that I've interacted with him, Sesh has become a mentor to me, a learned and balanced voice of reason, diligence, vast experience, deep rooted humanity, and of utmost integrity. I'm looking fwd to working with him. A week or so ago, the Glassdoor ratings were published, and a website/service that I didn't know existed, reported that employees had rated me one of the top 50 CEOs. And a few days before that, in Bangalore, I had an opportunity to join a gathering of 6200+ leaders of our company's delivery organization, our lifeblood, to review an important initiative we started, called Zero Distance, that aims to bring innovation to every ongoing project in the company. And it was an incredibly inspiring session, a memorable moment.

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September 1, 2014

Our Second Third

Posted by Dr. Vishal Sikka (View Profile | View All Posts) at 10:39 AM

Originally published on TIMELESSNESS - Musings on Constants and Other Invariants

It's been a month since I started as the CEO of Infosys.  An intense and rewarding journey.  And journey is a key word here: I've been on the road a lot.  And perhaps that is fitting, especially when charting a new course, that the thinking of it happens on planes, trains and automobiles heading in all kinds of directions.

Late in the evening of my very first day, I found myself in our university in Mysore, addressing ~13k of our fired up, screaming, trainees in the amphitheater of our magnificent campus. And that campus, which I'd heard so much about over the years, was far beyond my expectations. Its beauty, its attention to detail, its magnitude, and its sheer awesomeness, is something to behold. Almost 350 acres, lush green, massive use of renewable energy, and just a great example of sustainability and smart city innovation. And the university itself is an extraordinary institution. We can train ~16k resident students concurrently with a world-class team of educators. Truly exemplifying the spirit of a company that is founded on education, on learning. As my mom used to say, when we can learn anything, we can do anything. And nowhere is that simple truth more evident than in our Mysore campus, where you get the palpable feeling that the young trainees, on their way to great companies in the world to do great work, can do anything, because they can learn anything. It became clear to me that revitalizing our learning core must be a key focus for us going forward.

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July 8, 2014

Transitions and Anchors

Posted by Dr. Vishal Sikka (View Profile | View All Posts) at 12:17 PM


A video clip from the movie - A Beautiful Mind [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w5ToctbuBtc]

Originally published on TIMELESSNESS - Musings on Constants and Other Invariants

The last 8 weeks have been surreal, a blur. From running all of SAP's products to being appointed the next CEO of Infosys, I've been through two extraordinary transitions within a period of time that feels like an instant. And at the same time, these two transitions happened amid the backdrop of much bigger transitions, and transformations, that organizations go through, from companies to countries. Transformations they must go through, to survive, to continue to be relevant, when the circumstances and contexts around them change dramatically. Companies around the world, including mine, are going through these transitions, driven to a large extent by software and computing technology. And as I write this over the fourth of July weekend here in the US, my country of citizenship, I join more than 300 million citizens in taking the time to celebrate independence and big transformative ideas, such as individual freedom, democracy and a constitution to guide a nation. And at the same time, my maternal homeland India has just seen a great transition of its own, and more than a billion citizens find themselves hopeful and looking ahead to a great transformation under a new transformative leadership. So I've found myself reflecting on both my own transitions and those of large organizations, and thought this summer weekend is a good time to write some of these thoughts down.

I was at SAP for 12 years. More than a quarter of my life. And we did a lot. It was a great ride, a great wave. After the news of my resignation and my sudden departure from SAP came out, there was at first the shock of the abruptness with which all this happened. But such is the nature of waves. A great ride one moment and gone the next. This was followed by an incredible outpouring of support from thousands of friends and colleagues, more than four thousand of them, deeply heartfelt emotions, and show of support, that made this transition so memorable and the 12 year journey so worthwhile. It reminded me that we are defined not only by the work we do, but also by the deep and lasting relationships that we build during our journeys.

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