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In a captivating memoir, an Egyptian-American visionary and scientist provides an intimate view of her personal transformation as she follows her calling – to humanize our technology and how we connect with one another.
Rana el Kaliouby is a rarity in both the tech world and her native Middle East: a Muslim leader and CEO, a woman in charge in a field that is still overwhelmingly white and male. Growing up in Egypt and Kuwait, el Kaliouby was raised by a conservative father who valued tradition – yet also had high expectations for his daughters – and a mother who was one of the first female computer programmers in the Middle East. Even before el Kaliouby broke ground as a scientist, she broke the rules of what it meant to be an obedient daughter and, later, an obedient wife to pursue her own daring dream.
After earning her PhD at Cambridge, el Kaliouby, now the divorced mother of two, moved to America to pursue her mission to humanize technology before it dehumanizes us. The majority of our communication is conveyed through non-verbal cues: facial expressions, tone of voice, body language. But that communication is lost when we interact with others through our smartphones and devices. The result is a digital universe that’s emotion blind. To combat our fundamental loss of emotional intelligence online, she co-founded Affectiva, the pioneer in the new field of Emotion AI, allowing our technology to understand humans the way we understand one another. Girl Decoded chronicles Rana el Kaliouby’s journey from a “nice Egyptian girl” to a woman carving her own path as she revolutionizes technology. But decoding herself – learning to express and act on her own emotions–would prove to be the biggest challenge of all.
A pioneer in artificial emotional intelligence (Emotion AI), Rana el Kaliouby, PhD, is Deputy CEO at Smart Eye and formerly, Co-Founder and CEO of MIT spinoff and category-defining company Affectiva. Rana realized a successful exit for Affectiva in June 2021 when the company was acquired by Smart Eye, where she will team with Martin Krantz, Smart Eye’s CEO to scale the company to a global AI powerhouse. She is also an Executive Fellow at the Harvard Business School, where she co-teaches “Age of AI”. She raised over $50 million in venture and strategic funding for Affectiva, where the company’s technology is used by automotive OEMs and tier 1 suppliers to improve road safety and the in-cabin experience, in addition to 25% of the Fortune Global 500 companies to test content. Rana led the company's innovation, broadening its AI to not only detect complex and nuanced emotions and cognitive states from face and voice, like drowsiness and distraction, but also to understand human activity in context. Prior to founding Affectiva, Rana was a research scientist at MIT Media Lab where she spearheaded the applications of emotion recognition technology in a variety of fields, including mental health and autism research.
Rana is one of few women leading a disruptive AI company. A Muslim-American, she frequently speaks in press and on stage about innovation, women in technology, ethics in AI, diversity and leadership. A TED speaker, Rana has been recognized on Fortune’s 40 Under 40 list, Forbes' Top50 Women in Tech, Inc.’s Female Founders 100 list, and named one of the three Global Business pioneers by Bloomberg in 2017. She co-hosted a PBS NOVA series on AI. Rana is a trustee at the American University in Cairo and at the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council, and Rana is a Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum, a member of the Young Presidents' Organization member, and a part of the Partnership on AI, alongside founding companies Amazon, Apple, Google/DeepMind and others. Rana holds a BSc and MSc in Computer Science from the American University in Cairo, a PhD from the Computer Laboratory at the University of Cambridge and a Post Doctorate at MIT.