by Mariya Yao
Originally published: April 10, 2017
When Sahil Singla joined the social impact startup Farmguide, he was shocked to discover that thousands of rural farmers in India commit suicide every year. When harvests go awry, desperate farmers are forced to borrow from microfinance loan sharks at crippling rates. Unable to pay back these predatory loans, victims kill themselves - often by grisly methods like swallowing pesticides - to escape the threats and violence of their ruthless debt collectors.
Singla and his team are tackling this social injustice with one unexpected but powerful tool: deep learning. Recent growth of computational power and structured data sets has allowed deep learning algorithms to achieve extraordinary results. Computers can now recognize objects in images and video, transcribe speech to text, and translate languages nearly as well as humans can.