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Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 19 October 2023

CONTENTS:

  1. Development Census Serves our Goals Better
  2. The Explosion of Digital Uncertainty

Development Census Serves our Goals Better


Context:

Conducting a census to gather information on the educational and professional backgrounds of citizens would enable the government to formulate policies aimed at addressing the gaps hindering our development.

Relevance:

GS 1-

  • Diversity of India
  • Poverty and Developmental Issues

GS 2-

  • Welfare Schemes

Mains Question:

Highlighting the evolution of caste system in India, discuss its relevance in the Indian society today. Should there be an emphasis on conducting a census based on the educational and professional profile of citizens rather than a caste-based census. (15 marks, 250 words).

Issues Relating to Development

Prevalence of discriminatory practices:

  • Despite the scientific classification of human beings as Homo sapiens, discriminatory practices persist based on factors such as religion, race, and caste.
  • It is disheartening for both our nation and humanity as a whole when individuals resort to violence in the name of caste, religion, or race in various parts of the country.
  • Unlike many so-called developed countries that have overcome such social issues, caste continues to play a dominant role in our society.
  • The unfortunate reality is that caste considerations influence relationships, friendships, and even acts of assistance, with parents going to extreme lengths, including violence, to uphold caste norms.

History of the caste system in India:

  • The present-day caste system originated during the post-Vedic period, evolving into more rigid ‘Jathis’ from the varnas.
  • Religious movements led by figures like Buddha and Mahavira challenged the hierarchical nature of the caste system around the 6th century BCE.
  • However, during the colonial British rule, their divide-and-rule policy reinforced social divisions through census operations that classified people into various castes and communities.
  • Sree Narayana Guru, a prominent spiritual philosopher from Kerala, advocated for the philosophy of “one caste, one religion, one god” for the betterment of humanity.
  • Unfortunately, even in his home state, this philosophy is not followed in its true spirit.
  • Caste appears deeply ingrained in Indian society, permeating every religious group.

Present Status of Caste system in India:

  • Despite efforts over 75 years of independence to dismantle the formal caste system through legal means, caste-based discrimination and social stratification remain significant challenges in contemporary India.
  • The opposition parties’ call for a nationwide caste census is viewed critically, raising questions about its retrogressive impact.
  • The concern is whether it may reignite caste sentiments among the youth, promoting historical wrongs and fostering division.

Way Forward:

Instead of focusing on caste-based considerations, politicians should prioritize conducting a census on citizens’ educational and professional profiles. This approach could help identify gaps impeding development and guide the formulation of effective policy measures. The emphasis should shift toward supporting all marginalized citizens based on financial status, irrespective of caste, for comprehensive and inclusive development.


The Explosion of Digital Uncertainty


Context:

Recent progress in Artificial Intelligence (AI) has captivated the interest of the general public, businesses, and governments. The Government of India has recently published a comprehensive report on the opportunities presented by the current AI wave. IT industry leaders in India are confident that this AI wave will bring about significant changes in the skills landscape and, implicitly, introduce new threats and risks.

Relevance:

GS3- Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-technology, Bio-technology and issues relating to Intellectual Property Rights.

Mains Question:

“Over­dependence on AI and a belief in its invincibility could prove to be catastrophic.” Comment. (15 marks, 250 words).

Challenges of growing digital uncertainty:

Complexity in understanding:

The complexity of digital infrastructure, built on layers of machine intelligence, human-coded software, and hardware components, is not widely comprehended. This lack of understanding creates vulnerabilities, particularly in the realm of cognitive warfare.

Cognitive Warfare:

While cyber threats have garnered attention, there is a limited understanding of the nature of contemporary cognitive warfare. This form of warfare, comparable to maritime, air, and space domains, employs sophisticated techniques to destabilize institutions, especially governments, and manipulate news media. The manipulation involves using technological tools to alter the cognition of human targets, often without their awareness, potentially resulting in a loss of trust, breaches of confidentiality, and governance challenges.

Vulnerability to risks:

As businesses and governments navigate emerging technologies, they face significant risks. With a substantial investment in intangible assets, especially in advanced countries, and the migration of operations to the Cloud, the exposure to risks increases exponentially. This digital uncertainty is evolving into radical uncertainty, and governments are dedicating considerable resources to counter the impact of misinformation and disinformation, contributing to what is termed as ‘truth decay.’

Job security and inequalities:

The looming emergence of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) poses a more disruptive and dangerous scenario. AGI, equal or superior to human intelligence, could impact various sectors, replacing human judgment, intuition, and creativity. The fear is that AGI could alter the fabric of nation-states, exacerbate social and economic inequalities, and lead to unforeseen consequences in areas such as work, education, and social welfare.

Digital Colonialism:

The potential for AGI-driven disruptions includes job and economic displacements, leading to a tsunami of changes in human-related activities. AGI’s concentration of power may lead to a new form of exploitation, characterized by data exploitation and the dawn of the age of digital colonialism. The geopolitical balance of power could shift significantly, raising concerns about AGI-based concentration of power resembling historical patterns.

Recent incidents:

AI has the potential to be strategically manipulated, as seen in the recent Hamas-Israel conflict, also known as the Yom Kippur War 2023. Some experts attribute Israel’s significant intelligence failure to an excessive reliance on AI, which was adeptly exploited by Hamas. Since AI relies on data and algorithms, Hamas employed deceptive tactics to distort the flow of information into Israeli AI systems. According to some experts, this enabled Hamas to catch Israeli intelligence and the Israeli High Command off guard.

Conclusion:

We might be on the verge of an ‘Oppenheimer Moment,’ where the world faces critical decisions about the development and ethical implications of advanced AI. Controlling or halting AGI’s most advanced forms may be challenging, but the alternative could shape the world in unpredictable ways. The potential exploitation and manipulation of AI, as seen in the example of the Hamas-Israel conflict, emphasizing the need for cautious consideration of AI’s role in critical situations.


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