Friday, July 12, 2019

Aleef Mahmud: A resident of the Asylum brings artificial intelligence and poetry to Somerville.

Aleef Mahmud: A resident of the Asylum brings artificial intelligence and poetry to Somerville.

By Doug Holder

Aleef Mahmud, a 30ish young man, met me in the lobby of the Artisan's Asylum-- a hotbed for technology and the arts in Union Square in Somerville, Ma.

Mahmud is the founder of PROTYO, a concern that develops artificial intelligence for things like automated cars, robots, thermostats, medical devices, etc... Although he is located in Somerville-- in the Asylum, he has employees working all over the world.

Mahmud, who was previously located in Brooklyn, NY said Somerville is well-positioned for technology. Many of his customers happen to be in Cambridge, MA. “Somerville is fantastic for business, the arts and technology. People here have the skill-sets and the background for innovative work, and we are surrounded by major corporations,” he said. Mahmud continued, “I plan to always have a space in the Artisan's Asylum.

I asked Mahmud about his view of gentrification in our burg. “ It is a double-edged sword. There is a lot of displacement. Some of the artists at the Artisan's Asylum had to move from Somerville because of the high rents. They now commute. On the other hand, I feel it has brought a new vibrancy to the city.”

Mahmud told me he is the recipient of the Maritime Hero Award. This was presented to him by the U.S. Olympic Committee. It seems that Mahmud developed the technology that makes it possible for the disabled to enjoy sailing. He told me, “ I developed an exoskeleton—so a disabled sailor Richard ramos was able to compete in races. The technology is available for anyone to use for free. I want technologist to help people. I want it to make things more inclusive.”

Now—many people may have issues with artificial intelligence –but for the most part Mahmud does not. I asked Mahmud if all this technology will lead us to be at mercy of robots. He said, “ No I don't think it is going to be what we see in the movies. AI will relieve us from monotonous duties. It will be used for jobs that no one else wants, like bomb detecting, for instance. I told him that I know people with lower level jobs like cashiers have been losing their jobs because machines have replaced them. Mahmud said, “ Humans will always be in the loop. AI will make it more convenient to do what you want to do."

Mahmud came to this country from Bangladesh. His family lived in a cramped apartment in Queens, NY, and relied on food stamps.” So it stands to reason that Mahmud, who describes himself as an amateur poet, would pen work that is socially aware. It seems that this young entrepreneur in the Paris of New England is going to continue making technology and poetry that will be inclusive and with the good for broader society in mind.

Dreams of tomorrow:

dreams I hope will come tomorrow
dreams I hold close
shattered by a plane in September
dark days and sleepless nights that followed

dreams of my mother who struggled to stand
dreams of my father who begged for a hand
dreams become fears seeing my sister harassed
dreams become fears watching my brother's arrest

these dreams keep me steady
keep me ready against the night
these dreams of my mother,
my father, guiding lights of my life

dreams I hope will come tomorrow
dreams I hold close
for brighter days and safer nights
a better tomorrow for those who follow

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