They came to the US with their parents when they were just little kids, at 6 and 4 years of age from a rural area in Pakistan. The Choudery brothers, Haroon and Hamza, lived with their parents and nine other relatives in a small apartment in Brooklyn, New York City (NYC). Their parents and relatives were doing menial, low paying jobs just to provide for their families.
Some 20 years later, they’re giving back to society with free education in Artificial Intelligence (AI), named AI for Anyone. AI for Anyone is a non-profit educational organization meant to teach AI to students and workers. To date, they’ve taught over 1,500 students in NYC and over 50,000 people online.
The basis for teaching AI literacy to anyone is to empower people, especially workers who might lose their jobs to AI in the near future, to understand AI and not be intimidated by it.
9/11 happened and the US economy hit a downturn. Their parents were hardly getting by financially, before their father reached out to a friend in Maryland state, to work as a farmhand in a poultry farm.
The family moved to the poultry farm for a better life. Their children, Haroon, Hamza, and younger sister, Rahat, also chipped in as a family effort to run the farm. It wasn’t all easy for the family, as living on a chicken farm had the drawbacks of bad smell of chicken manure.
The big break came for Haroon, when he won a Gates Millenium scholarship to fully fund his studies at Pennsylvania State University for his undergraduate studies, and at the University of California, Berkeley, for his master’s degree. His master’s degree is in Information and Data Science.
Hamza graduated from the University of Maryland in BSc in Finance and Information Systems. Both brothers worked in the tech sector after graduating from the universities, with Hamza working for Facebook, and Haroon, for Mark Cuban companies as a data scientist.
They’re currently working in different companies in technology fields. Both brothers co-founded their non-profit organization, AI for Anyone.
Both Haroon and Hamza have seen first hand how technology disrupted their lives and their relatives’ lives.
First, at the poultry farm, the farmers’ work were now automated. Farmworkers no longer had to manually check the chicken feed, the temperature and so on, as these are now automated. Furthermore, the highspeed internet enabled them to video chat with their extended family members around the world.
Later on, they saw that their uncle’s taxi medallion lost significant value, with the use of ride-sharing apps. An NYC taxi medallion (taxi license) was worth at least USD 1 million in 2013, and by 2019, it was only worth USD138,000.
His uncle had used his life savings to buy the taxi license only to see it lose its value significantly. Many taxi drivers faced bankruptcy or at the very least, depression due to this reason.
While technology gave the brothers better lives for themselves, they saw the negative impact technology had on their uncle. This led them to cofound AI for Anyone, meant to educate the people who might lose their jobs in the near future to AI.
Haroon Choudery wrote, ” I often think about what would have happened differently if taxicab drivers were more aware of what was happening in their industry around the time that the medallion bubble peaked. “
“Although education wouldn’t have prevented all taxicab drivers of them from losing their jobs or their life savings, at least they’d have the knowledge and whereabouts to give themselves a fighting chance at protecting their livelihoods. “
AI is a major breakthrough in technology, that will change lives, economies, and jobs. AI or machine learning is the ability of computer to make complex decisions, outpacing human ability.
It is already in use today, not just in the near future. AI is used in the financial sector for fraud detection, in the medical sector for early detection of cancer, and in the transportation sector for self-driving vehicles.
According to PriceWaterhouseCoopers, AI could increase the global economy by 14% in 2030, as much as US15.7 trillion for economies that deploy AI. (source: Brookings)
AI is expected to create new jobs in the AI field, which are highly skilled in nature. On the other hand, AI will take away menial, repetitive jobs from humans. This will further create income and opportunity disparities between the low-skilled laborers and the white-collar workers.
AI for Anyone is meant to educate all, for free, and prepare people for when automation will impact their lives, especially if it meant displacing their jobs. The organization is funded by corporate sponsors while giving free education to students and teachers alike.
According to Haroon, “By educating citizens on AI, we are empowering them to be proactive and to have a voice in the discussions that will shape their future.”
“We want our audience to adapt and prosper in an increasingly automated world.”
“A.I. for Anyone works [as] one of the most appropriate and most fitting ways for us to use our privilege to give back to those that are less privileged than us,”.
Halalop’s Editor’s Note: Have you read our other inspiring Muslim stories? Check them out here:
Farah Ishak is a Content Writer at Halalop. She grew up in the United Kingdom where she obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Management. Later, she completed her MBA and held senior-level positions in Malaysian based MNC. She left the corporate world to be with her young kids. She is passionate about issues concerning Muslim women, Startups and Muslim businesses in general.
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