Artificial Intelligence bane or boon: Task Force to define
With the establishment of the Artificial Intelligence Task Force last year, India has taken its first step in the simulated world of immense possibilities. The Ministry of Commerce and Industry has submitted a detailed report speaking about the usage of Artificial Intelligence in multiple fields and its aim to transform India’s economy. The report submitted by the Ministry is meticulous and invariably states all the aspects of human existence like pharmaceuticals, Defence, technology, household, entertainment, education, environment, farming, finance and many more. The report mentions the usage and benefits of Artificial Intelligence in all these arenas. It is definitely built with a robust and comprehensive vision. The agenda of the vision takes into consideration the role a Government body must play, the employment opportunities that can be created with any application and implementation of Artificial Intelligence and resolving problems on a grand scale for Indian citizens.
This phenomenon termed as Artificial Intelligence has been there for around 60 years now. But the major reform has come up in the last decade. The expanses like neural networking and machine learning have acted as a catalyst for Artificial Intelligence to boom. Starting from resolving basic problems to becoming an equivalent or rather smarter than human beings, this miracle has come a long way in a short span.
But the vision with which this plan is launched requires more foresight and prudence.
Bearing in mind its advantages and application arenas, the status of this campaign should be perpetual in nature instead of a 5-year plan. In this expanse, we already lag behind other developed nations by a couple of decades. The world will again be ahead of India in these 5 years given the fact that the task force is not even one year old. A brilliant initiative taken by the Artificial Intelligence Task Force is that it is open to public opinion. But is the public aware of the phenomenon? We are still consumers of the Artificial Intelligence-based services and are yet to become potential producers of it. Also, we have a small consumer base for Artificial Intelligence-based services because of our limited knowledge in this field.
As per the report, the vision advocates a three-point agenda focusing at areas where the Government must play a role: employment opportunities and improving quality of life, solving problems at scale for Indian citizens.
The vision is comprehensive in nature when it talks about exploiting the technology to benefit the human race. It addresses the issue of privacy of data for the users and the responsibility and ethics to be followed when designing Artificial Intelligence-based applications.
The vision must also consider the negative implications of Artificial Intelligence. The society must be vigilant about the potential threat of this enchanted technology trained to do almost everything.
Machines were not intelligent ever since their inception. They were trained and programmed to be intelligent by humans. But have we trained them to such an extent that we are falling prey to their intelligence? Human beings are considered superior organisms because of their ability to think, learn from their mistakes, intuitive understanding and decision-making abilities. Now that machines have become clever enough that they outsmart their makers, it is a threat to our very existence. The incident that the reigning Chess Champion Gary Kasparov lost to Deep Blue, the supercomputer created by IBM, aptly questions this threat. Or consider the very recent case of Google Duplex, which has not yet been launched for public use, the robot makes calls to a salon for appointment and to a restaurant for reservation in close to human voice. With the use of mono syllables and intonation in voice, it can definitely replace human voice!
Elon Musk (CEO and product architect of Tesla, an American MNC that specialises in electric vehicles) and SpaceX, co-chair of a non-for-profit organisation called OpenAI) predicted long back that Artificial Intelligence could be more dangerous than nukes!
He recently promoted the movie Do You Trust This Computer?, which talks about the perils of Artificial Intelligence in detail. The movie advocates the fact the intelligence of a computer grows exponentially and thus outsmarts human intellect. Job automation, big data, privacy breaches being other concerns to be looked after.
By now we realise that launching Artificial Intelligence comes with a huge responsibility towards mankind. We have to determine an adequate balance between merits and perils of Artificial Intelligence. In order to avail the benefits to the fullest, we must remain focused and vigilant at the same time.
Since India is just pacing into this new venture, it can be attentive, cautious and progressive simultaneously.
Concentrating on the vision of the Artificial Intelligence Task Force about creating employment opportunities and resolving problems of the society, it is essential to start from the grassroots. To begin with, not many engineering colleges have Artificial Intelligence as a subject, others have it as an elective. There is a dearth of teachers specialising in the field. If the subject is taught in the universities, we will eventually have specialised teaching staff and innovators. The current situation is that there are a few private firms providing Artificial Intelligence-based services and products, and they find it challenging to hire new workforce as the skill set does not match easily. Teaching the subject in universities, India will have its skill specific human resource ready to lead the Artificial Intelligence movement by the time we have enough infrastructure to manufacture, test and launch Artificial Intelligence-based products. Simultaneously, India should also look after formulating standards for this emerging technology.
Entering the field of Artificial Intelligence is as remarkable a step as stepping on the moon. What was said then holds true in this development as well: That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. What the physicist Stephen Hawking once remarked “either the best, or the worst thing, ever to happen to humanity” there is no denying that Artificial Intelligence will have a significant impact on our society. It is up to the mankind whether it wants to use technology as a blessing for itself, or a menace. However thin, there must exist a line beyond which the use of technology should be reconsidered.
(The writer is a software engineer currently working as an executive at JIRICO, OP Jindal Global University, Sonipat)
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