A quantum physicist-turned-entrepreneur, RADHIKA DIRKS is CEO and co-founder at XLabs: the only company in the world making AI moonshots a reality. Her enterprising work proves that we can combine human intelligence with artificial intelligence to enhance, rather than displace, our humanity. Named one of the Top 30 Women advancing AI today, Dirks also dives into the state of diversity in the AI sector. Drawing from personal experience, she addresses the industry’s glaring gender imbalances—women make up only a quarter of AI positions—and outlines the necessary steps for change. Armed with first-hand examples of tech she has built, Dirks argues for a future that fits our biggest ambitions—and makes the world a better place while we’re at it.
“We will start to see AI built to tackle hard, meaningful problems. AI built to help us humans do what we cannot, as opposed to simply attempting to mimic our abilities.”— Radhika Dirks
AI is the new Renaissance, says Radhika Dirks. The 15th century saw a revival of new thought—the rebirth of culture, technology, and philosophy that brought about massive change from within. This is what AI is doing right now, and will continue to do: enhancing and diversifying human capability in ways we could’ve never imagined. In her brilliantly interrogative technology talks, Dirks pushes us to rethink the terms of AI and its ambiguities, seeing in it an opportunity for a new framework. The AI we’re currently most comfortable with works to make certain things easier for humans: manipulation of large numbers; connecting people and marketplaces; locomotion, even. All of these mimic aspects of human intelligence. But what if we created different types of artificial intelligences that are different from humans, asks Dirks. Ones that can elevate, empower, and super-power us? This type of technology isn’t redundant. Instead, it complements our human skills to make us more than we thought possible. Dirks, with striking clarity, persuasion, and real examples of AI she has built, shows audiences how much more hopeful, ambitious, and trailblazing we can be if we employ these new intelligences.
Dirks also goes beyond the possibilities of AI to address the elements that are hindering its progress—namely, the gender disparity of the sector as a whole. As a recent collaborator and key feature in Deloitte AI Institute’s new ‘Women in AI’ report, Dirks has an intimate understanding of the barriers obstructing women’s advancement in the field. Amongst the report’s interview participants, a shared experience shines through: women in AI, regardless of position or seniority, are faced with resistance, questioning, and judgment from their male peers and superiors. “People tend to pattern match to what has been successful in the past, and leaders historically have looked a certain way,” says Dirks. If these patterns aren’t disrupted, we miss a crucial opportunity to improve the design and functionality of AI systems. Effective AI urgently demands diversity—it’s necessary to benefit the populations it was designed to serve. A more diverse workforce is better equipped to identify and remove AI biases as they interpret data, test solutions, and make decisions.
Prior to co-founding XLabs, Dirks was CEO and founder of Seldn, an AI that predicts global socio-economic disruptions. She has also co-led cleantech deals as a founding member of Shell’s venture capital group, and was COO of Rotary Gallop, a game theory-based fintech firm. She has been named as one of the top rising women entrepreneurs in the US. Dirks has a Ph.D. in quantum computing and a M.S. in nanotechnology from the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign. She has authored 22 peer-reviewed publications and has more than 290 citations on next-gen computing and technology. Dirks frequently advises Heads of States and technology executives at Fortune 100 companies on the future of disruptive technologies. She is responsible for having built the world’s best source of entangled photons for quantum computing, and her doctoral thesis featured a whole chapter on teleportation.