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17th March 2021 – Editorials/Opinions Analyses


  1. Responsible AI — the need for ethical guard rails



Artificial intelligence (AI), the engine of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, is already very much with us and in just the last decade AI has evolved with unprecedented velocity.


GS-III: Science and Technology (Developments and everyday applications & effects of Science and Technology; Awareness in fields of IT, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nanotech, Biotech, IPR issues.)

Mains Questions:

  1. Artificial intelligence (AI) is the engine of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. In this context, discuss the measures taken in India to promote developments in field of AI. (10 Marks)
  2. Without adequate safeguards, AI can widen social and economic schisms, leading to discriminatory outcomes. Discuss. (15 Marks)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)?
  2. Significance of Artificial Intelligence:
  3. Issues related to Artificial Intelligence:
  4. AI: For better or for worse
  5. India’s developments in the field of AI
  6. National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence (AI)
  7. Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI)
  8. Way forward

What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)?

  • Artificial intelligence is the branch of computer science concerned with making computers behave like humans.
  • AI refers to the ability of machines to perform cognitive tasks like thinking, perceiving, learning, problem solving and decision making.
  • It is the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, especially computers.
  • It refers to the ability of machines to perform cognitive tasks like thinking, perceiving, learning, problem solving and decision making and execute tasks in real time situations without constant supervision.
  • Particular applications of AI include expert systems, speech recognition and machine vision.

Significance of Artificial Intelligence:

NITI Aayog’s national strategy for AI envisages ‘AI for all’ for inclusive growth, and identifies healthcare, agriculture, education, smart cities and infrastructure, and smart mobility and transportation as focus areas for AI-led solutions for social impact.

  • Data and AI services are expected to help boost India’s economic growth in a big way. NASSCOM believes that data and AI will contribute $450 billion-$500 billion to India’s GDP by 2025, which is around 10% of the government’s aspiration of a $5 trillion economy.
  • It has the potential to overcome the physical limitations of capital and labour and open up new sources of value and growth.
  • The growing AI economy is estimated to create over 20 million technical roles alone.
  • AI can create not just niche solutions to specific problems that banks and other service providers are deploying, such as speeding up loan application processing or improving customer service;
  • it can also provide solutions for better governance and social impact. For example, during the lockdown, the Telangana police used AI-enabled automated number plate recognition software to catch violations.
  • It has the potential to drive growth by enabling
  • Intelligent automation i.e., ability to automate complex physical world tasks. Innovation diffusion i.e., propelling innovations through the economy.
  • Role in social development and inclusive growth: access to quality health facilities, addressing location barriers, providing real-time advisory to farmers and help in increasing productivity, building smart and efficient cities etc.
  • The exponential growth of data is constantly feeding AI improvements.
  • AI has varied applications in fields like Healthcare, Education, Smart Cities, Environment, Agriculture, smart Mobility etc.

Issues related to Artificial Intelligence:

  • Ethical concerns- With popularization of a new technology, its virtues are not guaranteed. For instance, the internet made it possible to connect with anyone and get information from anywhere, but also easier for misinformation to spread.
  • Data Management- as there is lack of clarity on data flow and data ownership which might result into data colonialism (data generated by developing countries yet not benefitting them).
  • Biasedness: The algorithms used in artificial intelligence are discrete and, in most cases, trade secrets. They can be biased, for example, in the process of self-learning, they can absorb and adopt the stereotypes that exist in society or which are transferred to them by developers and make decisions based on them.
  • Accountability: If an AI system fails at its assigned task, someone should be made responsible for it. e.g., an anti-terrorism facial recognition program revoked the driver’s license of an innocent man when it confused him for another driver.

AI: For better or for worse

For the Better:

  • Already, AI has helped increase crop yields, raised business productivity, improved access to credit and made cancer detection faster and more precise.
  • It could contribute more than $15 trillion to the world economy by 2030 adding 14% to global GDP.
  • A study reviewing the impact of AI on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) finds that AI may act as an enabler on 134 — or 79% — of all SDG targets.

For the Worse:

A study o finds that AI can actively hinder 59 — or 35% — of SDG targets.

  • AI requires massive computational capacity, which means more power-hungry data centres — and a big carbon footprint.
  • AI could also compound digital exclusion.
  • Robotics and AI companies are building intelligent machines that perform tasks typically carried out by low-income workers: self-service kiosks to replace cashiers, fruit-picking robots to replace field workers, etc.; but the day is not far when many desk jobs will also be edged out by AI, such as accountants, financial traders and middle managers.
  • Without clear policies on reskilling workers, the promise of new opportunities will in fact create serious new inequalities.
  • Investment is likely to shift to countries where AI-related work is already established widening gaps among and within countries.

India’s developments in the field of AI

  • India has recently launched National AI Strategy and National AI Portal and have also started leveraging AI across various sectors such as education, agriculture, healthcare, e-commerce, finance, telecommunications, etc. with inclusion and empowerment of human being approach by supplementing growth and development. By joining GPAI as a founding member, India will actively participate in the global development of Artificial Intelligence, leveraging upon its experience around use of digital technologies for inclusive growth.

National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence (AI)

NITI Aayog had published the National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence in 2019, wherein it identified five core areas for application of artificial intelligence.

  1. Healthcare: for increased access and affordability of quality healthcare.
  2. Agriculture: for enhanced farmers’ income, increased farm productivity and reduction of wastage.
  3. Education: For improved access and quality of education.
  4. Smart Cities and Infrastructure: For efficient and connectivity for the burgeoning urban population.
  5. Smart Mobility and Transportation: For smarter and safer modes of transportation and better traffic and congestion problems.

Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI)

  • Recently, India joined GPAI as a founding member. GPAI is multi-stakeholder international partnership to promote responsible and human centric development and use of AI, grounded in human rights, inclusion, diversity, innovation, and economic growth.
  • India became one of the founding members and joined the league of leading economies including USA, UK, EU, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Singapore to launch the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI or Gee-Pay).
  • GPAI is an international and multi-stakeholder initiative to guide the responsible development and use of AI, grounded in human rights, inclusion, diversity, innovation, and economic growth.
  • This is also a first initiative of its type for evolving better understanding of the challenges and opportunities around AI using the experience and diversity of participating countries.
  • In order to achieve this goal, the initiative will look to bridge the gap between theory and practice on AI by supporting cutting-edge research and applied activities on AI-related priorities.
  • In collaboration with partners and international organizations, GPAI will bring together leading experts from industry, civil society, governments, and academia to collaborate to promote responsible evolution of AI and will also evolve methodologies to show how AI can be leveraged to better respond to the present global crisis around COVID-19.

National Informatics Centre (NIC)

  • The National Informatics Centre (NIC) is an attached office under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) in the Indian government.
  • The NIC provides infrastructure to help support the delivery of government IT services and the delivery of some of the initiatives of Digital India.
  • The NIC was established in 1976 under the aegis of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology under the Planning Commission by the India Government.

Way forward

  • Agreeing on common guiding principles is an important first step, but it is not the most challenging part.
  • It is in the application of the principles that the rubber hits the road.
  • It is where principles meet reality that the ethical issues and conundrums arise in practice, and for which we must be prepared for deep, difficult, multi-stakeholder ethical reflection, analyses and resolve. Only then will AI provide humanity its full promise.
  • Until then, AI (and the humans who created it) will embody the myth of Prometheus: the Titan who shared the fire of the gods with mortals, and the trickster whose defiance of Zeus led to Pandora opening her box.

-Source: The Hindu

February 2024