India must be prepared to meet challenges that AI poses on economic, security front

Hosting the G20 leaders’ summit later this year is an excellent opportunity for India to demonstrate its capabilities and contributions to information technology and the digital economy. The newest weapons will not be the biggest bombs, tanks or missiles but AI-powered applications and devices which will be used to wage and win wars. India must wake up to the challenge to protect itself against the potential consequences of an AI war.

Just recall the conversation between the world’s first human robot Sophia and CNBC’s Andrew Ross, in which he voiced his concerns about advancements in Artificial intelligence (AI): “We all want to prevent a bad future where robots turn against humans,” to which Sophia retorted, “Don’t worry if you’re nice to me, I will be nice to you”. The message was clear: It is up to humans — and nations — how they utilise AI and appreciate its advantages. The astonishing AI advancements are nothing but a warning to prepare for the unexpected.

There is widespread fear that as the usage of AI increases, both blue- and white-collar workers may be replaced and rendered unemployed. But despite criticism in some parts of the world, AI has grown significantly in recent times. The global AI market size was estimated at $65.48 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $1,581.70 billion by 2030, according to a recent Bloomberg report. The growing impact of AI on banking and financial markets, e-commerce, education, gaming and entertainment is changing the world order.

The driving forces behind the evolution of AI growth are greater availability of data, higher computing power and advancements in AI algorithms. Future predictions indicate that AI will drastically change industries, make cities smarter, improve energy efficiency, and reduce carbon emissions. The rising popularity of AI, like ChatGPT, the newest tool for natural languages, could pose a serious threat to human autonomy and decision-making.

We are probably in the final stage of a confrontation that no one could have predicted ten years ago. The only way to outsmart AI — which has the ability to do the work of an accountant, teacher, doctor, translator, and driver — is for people to understand the constraints of AI systems and utilise their problem-solving skills, leveraging the strengths of human intelligence. They have to update themselves on the latest AI developments to ensure that they are better prepared to understand and challenge AI decisions. Both AIs and HIs have different strengths and weaknesses. In some cases, AI may be better at tasks that require speed and accuracy, while people may be better at tasks requiring novelty and creativity.

Many people believe that AI is primarily relevant to bigger tech corporations and has little bearing on their daily lives. In actuality, we all interact with AI through social media, transportation, banking, cell phones, smartwatches, and other devices. The developed world has an edge in the AI revolution while developing countries are yet to overcome economic and social challenges that make it difficult for them to invest in AI technology. Moreover, it is important to regulate AI and think about its ethical implications to protect the interests of people and society as a whole. Without proper regulations, it could end up doing more harm than good.

An Iranian nuclear scientist was hit by machine gun fire in 2020. It was later discovered that the scientist was actually targeted and killed by an Israeli remote-controlled machine gun using AI. There are a series of similar adverse incidents that spark moral discussions regarding the potential benefits and drawbacks of AI. The AI arms race between countries like the US, China and Russia, points to the possibility that AI can escalate global conflict and pose significant security risks. Smaller countries like Israel and Singapore are also in the lead.

But where does India stand in the AI ecosystem? According to a Nasscom report, investments in AI applications in India are expected to increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 30.8 per cent and reach $881 million during 2023. The report further added that although there is a massive increase in global investments in AI, the contribution of India has remained at 1.5 per cent. In her Budget 2023-24 speech, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman made an announcement about the government’s intent to establish three Centres of Excellence for artificial intelligence (AI) in prestigious educational institutions in India.

Of late India has made considerable strides in digital technology. It is currently the third-largest startup hub in the world and is home to many leading technology companies. However, India still lags behind China in terms of overall AI capabilities. China is leading the way in terms of research, development and AI applications, including development of intelligent robots, autonomous systems, and intelligent transportation systems. The current trend of AI development suggests that it will determine future economies and national security to influence world politics.

The writer is a former Institute Postdoc Fellow from IIT Madras and winner of the Young Researcher Award 2022 from Indian Commerce Association

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