Meet the 13-year-old prodigy taking IBM and artificial intelligence by storm


Tanmay Bakshi fell in love with computers at five, released his first iPhone app at nine, and now at just 13 years old is working with IBM on artificial intelligence.

The Canadian teen has become a global force in programming and commands more than 20,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel that teaches computer coding.

He is currently in Australia for the IBM Watson Summit, which brings together experts in artificial intelligence to discuss how the technology can help people and businesses in the future.

“If you think about it, really anything would fascinate a five-year-old, especially a computer,” Tanmay told News Breakfast.

“Just looking at the colours change on screen or even displaying my name on screen, whatever it might be, as a five-year-old that really fascinated me.”

Tanmay’s dad Puneet was a computer programmer and nurtured his son’s interest right from the beginning.

“Even before he started going to school, we could see that there was something different going on,” he said.

“At that time it was not very visible, but we knew there was something unique coming.”

Tanmay names Apple co-founder Steve Jobs as an inspiration — “especially his passion and dedication towards his work” — and is now most excited by how artificial intelligence can be used in health care.

He has joined a collaborative project that includes IBM and aims to help a quadriplegic woman in Canada who cannot communicate.

“We’re trying to give her artificial communication ability … through the power of artificial intelligence and systems like IBM Watson that allow you to essentially implement artificial intelligence,” he said.

“[I’m interested] in generally sharing my knowledge about these sorts of technologies with the rest of the community and of course through things like open-source technology and so much more.”

Tanmay has toured the world to spread the word on computer programming, including giving public lectures and joining forum discussions, which has meant he has left traditional school in lieu of home schooling.

Tanmay’s mum Sumita said despite the different lifestyle and obvious gift, he was still very much a normal child.

“He’s very happy being a child, so that’s how we knew he loves what he’s doing but at the same time he is in that age mentally,” she said.

“I mean, he’s gifted, obviously, he knows more than what his friends know, but that’s separate.

“He’s kept that separate. I don’t know how, but he’s done that.”

As for what the future holds, Tanmay is choosing to keep his options open.

“Right now there’s no specific sort of plan … we’ll see in a few years’ time,” he said.