An Indian American-run company and an Indian American researcher have been recognized by the New York Times with “Good Tech” Awards in 2018, honoring projects that are making a concerted effort to improve the world.
Among the handful of projects included in the popular daily newspaper’s awards included Upsolve, led by chief executive Rohan Pavuluri, and Caltech researcher Anima Anandkumar.
Upsolve was honored for helping people go bankrupt, the Times said.
“For many low-income Americans, declaring personal bankruptcy can be a painful but necessary way to get rid of exorbitant medical bills or predatory lenders. But it’s often expensive to hire a bankruptcy lawyer and hard to navigate the maze of paperwork,” the report said.
Upsolve, a nonprofit organization founded by a Harvard graduate and a lawyer, built a tool that has been referred to as the “TurboTax of bankruptcy,” according to the Times report.
The software collects financial information from users, automatically fills out their forms and passes them to a lawyer who reviews them before the user submits a bankruptcy claim, it said.
In 2018, Upsolve helped users in 47 states discharge a total of more than $13 million in debt, Pavuluri said.
Anandkumar was among a trio of researchers recognized by the Times for calling out bias in AI.
“Artificial intelligence will be one of the most important areas of computer science in the coming years. It’s also one of the least diverse. Just 12 percent of AI researchers are women, and the number of black and Latino executives in the field is vanishingly small. Three leading AI researchers are trying to change that,” the report said.
Anandkumar, Nvidia’s director of machine learning research and a professor at Caltech, saw that the name of the AI field’s marquee annual event — the Neural Information Processing Systems conference, or NIPS — had been used as fodder for sexist jokes.
So she started a #ProtestNIPS campaign to change the name and drew up a petition that gathered more than 2,000 signatures. Eventually, the conference’s board relented, and the event is now abbreviated as “NeurIPS.” It was a small gesture of inclusion that could go a long way toward making women feel more welcome in the field for years to come, the report said.
The awards, according to Kevin Roose who penned the report, has a goal of shining a spotlight on a few less-heralded projects that may not get front-page headlines or billions of dollars in funding, but are actually trying to fulfill the tech industry’s stated goal of improving the world.