Advancements in AI: A cause for concern or excitement?

ByHindustan Times
Oct 04, 2023 09:50 AM IST

This article is authored by Soumya Awasthi, IVLP fellow, US.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is currently experiencing a meteoric rise in its development. According to research conducted by Grandview Research, the global market for AI reached a staggering valuation of $136.55 billion in the year 2022. Projections indicate that this industry is set to continue its remarkable growth, with a projected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 37.3% from 2023 to 2030. As AI technology matures, it is making its presence felt in society in ways that will undoubtedly reshape the landscape of business and industry.

Artificial intelligence.(Thinkstock)
Artificial intelligence.(Thinkstock)

AI has already become an integral part of our daily lives, having been a prominent presence for several years. Virtual assistants like Siri have aided us in setting reminders for appointments and delivering real-time weather forecasts. Chatbots have become a ubiquitous feature on websites, engaging users and providing instant responses to their queries. Within the workplace, a wide array of software applications has been developed and implemented to automate tasks across various domains, including accounting, marketing, human resources, and beyond.

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The emergence of novel applications such as ChatGPT and Midjourney has reignited interest in AI and is currently causing a significant stir in the business world. AI heralds the dawn of a new era, and, much like any groundbreaking technology, those businesses, leaders, and individuals who wholeheartedly embrace and adapt to it stand to be the ultimate beneficiaries of this transformative wave.

Furthermore, the rapid growth of AI offers a glimpse into its future impact. In late 2022, AI was akin to a seven-year-old, but in a matter of months, by early 2023, it matured to the age of nine. This exponential rate of progress underscores the transformative potential of AI in a competitive environment.

Contrary to earlier apprehensions that AI would displace blue-collar jobs, it has, paradoxically, begun to replace white-collar positions. When AI can generate photography, why expend millions on designers, photographers, and models? Another source of unease emerges in the form of deepfakes, as exemplified by viral videos mimicking figures like Barack Obama, sowing seeds of doubt with their deceptive authenticity. The implications of this technology in the hands of the general populace are disconcerting.

A more profound concern revolves around the preservation of our humanity—will we, as a species, stray from our core values and devolve into a state akin to other animals? In a world where Japan's attempts to create humanoid forms resemble human lives, the proximity of such a reality is disquieting. As AI advances at breakneck speed, it engenders fears and prompts profound questions about the shape of the emerging society, distinct from imperialist and capitalist systems. The ultimate query pertains to whether this age will subdue humanity's cherished cognitive faculties, akin to the cost incurred in laying the foundations of past eras, as witnessed in the wake of World Wars I and II.

On the flip side, the era of AI promises to unlock a plethora of opportunities. Humanity must seek fresh horizons each day, particularly for those who have lived like robots for years, unaware to the intrinsic value of their lives. Engaging in creative endeavours that imbue life with purpose and introspection becomes imperative. Such undertakings can restore the distinctive essence of humanity, which sets us apart from other creatures.

The notion that all forms of intelligence are akin to lifeless machinery is fundamentally flawed. AI possesses the capacity for independent thought, reasoning, and decision-making. While printing presses were once limited to reproducing copies of the Bible, Quran and Gita, they now possess the ability to interpret its contents. The domains that were once dominated by doctors and engineers are being increasingly filled by artificial intelligence. This paradigm shift underscores that intelligence, whether human or artificial, is far from inert; it possesses the capacity to think, reason, and make autonomous decisions.

India currently lacks a codified legal framework or statutory regulations that specifically govern the deployment and use of AI. The absence of such regulations leaves a considerable void in providing clear guidance to stakeholders on responsible AI management within the country.

Nevertheless, some sector-specific guidelines have been established to address AI usage within certain domains. In the financial sector, for instance, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) issued a circular in January 2019, outlining reporting requirements for Stockbrokers, Depository Participants, Recognised Stock Exchanges, and Depositories concerning AI and Machine Learning (ML) applications and systems.

Similarly, in the health care sector, the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) strategy recognises the importance of establishing standards and guidelines to ensure the reliability of AI systems used in health care.

Notably, on June 9, 2023, the ministry of electronics and information technology (MeiTY) hinted at the potential regulation of AI in India, akin to other emerging technologies. Their rationale is to safeguard digital users from potential harm. Importantly, MeiTY underscored that the immediate threat of AI displacing jobs is not imminent, as present-day AI systems remain task-oriented and lack the sophistication, human reasoning, and logic associated with autonomous decision-making.

The rapid growth and integration of AI into various aspects of society underscore the necessity for comprehensive AI regulation. While regulating AI presents formidable challenges, it is not an insurmountable task. Historical precedent shows that legal systems can adapt to emerging technologies, provided regulators invest time in understanding the intricacies of AI and its societal implications.

India can draw inspiration from the European Union's pioneering legislation to formulate its AI regulations effectively. Legislation plays a pivotal role in ensuring the responsible and equitable implementation of AI in society and technology. As AI continues its relentless advance, regulatory frameworks are essential to mitigate system and societal risks, thereby fostering innovation and responsible AI usage.

In 2022, the revenue generated by AI India reached a substantial $12 billion. This significant growth has been propelled by the Indian government's vigorous drive to foster the digital economy, marking the era as a "digital techade." Consequently, AI has emerged as a pivotal subject for legal and policy deliberations. While government initiatives have concentrated on initiatives such as facilitating access to datasets and devising an IndiaAI roadmap to bolster research and innovation within the AI startup ecosystem, concrete legal and regulatory measures have not yet been put in place.

However, the landscape may undergo transformation with the introduction of the proposed Digital India Act (DIA), for which the government initiated public consultations in March 2023. The DIA aims to encompass AI regulation within its purview, signalling a proactive stance on AI governance. The government is contemplating defining and regulating high-risk AI applications, constructing frameworks for AI accountability, and ensuring the ethical utilisation of AI-based tools.

In the 2023-24 Union budget, the finance minister underscored the imperative of "Making AI in India" and harnessing AI for the benefit of the nation. The budget announcement included the establishment of three "Centres of Excellence" dedicated to AI research in premier educational institutions. It also emphasised fostering industry partnerships to advance scalable solutions in sectors like agriculture, healthcare, and sustainable urban development. Additionally, the budget aims to facilitate access to anonymised data through the National Data Governance Policy.

A pronounced emphasis has been placed on identifying AI applications that serve the public good, transforming sectors such as healthcare, education, and agriculture, and incentivising the widespread adoption of AI while promoting capacity building in the field. Key governmental bodies and sectoral regulators actively involved in this endeavour include the (MeiTY), the NITI Aayog (the government's apex public policy think tank), the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), and the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).

Industry-driven initiatives complement government efforts, with NASSCOM's Responsible AI Resource Kit aiming to promote the responsible adoption of AI on a large scale. Furthermore, the collaborative program "Future Skills Prime" between NASSCOM and MeiTY focuses on upskilling IT professionals in various emerging technology areas, including AI. The government has also launched programs like "Responsible AI for Youth" and "Youth for Unnati and Vikas with AI," aimed at acquainting students with AI skills and enabling them to contribute to AI advancement for social impact.

India seeks active participation in the global discourse on AI adoption and regulation. As the chair of the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI) since November 2022, India plays a pivotal role in this multi-stakeholder initiative, bridging the gap between AI theory and practice. The government views AI as a dynamic enabler to enhance ongoing investments in technology and innovation, aligning with its G20 presidency agenda. Under this presidency, India underscores the significance of data-driven development and the conversion of data into intelligence through AI and Big Data analytics.

These trends underscore the government's commitment to establishing India as a global hub for innovation and research. It showcases India's receptiveness to innovative and experimental AI applications across various sectors while concurrently addressing the need for responsible innovation through appropriate safeguards, as discussed in subsequent sections.

Recognising the profound potential of AI to enhance capacity across sectors such as health care, education, and to drive overall economic growth, India has been diligently working to establish a comprehensive regulatory framework and ecosystem for governing AI. The foundational principles and potential regulatory strategies can be discerned from the proposed policy frameworks, strategic documents, discussion papers, and committee reports released by the government.

In shaping India's AI policy landscape, two prominent entities, namely the MeitY and the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog), have played pivotal roles. They have formulated various mission plans designed to anticipate and harness AI's growth within India. Until 2020, both MeitY and NITI Aayog had overlapping responsibilities in advancing the AI agenda in India. To resolve this overlap, a committee was convened, ultimately designating MeitY as the implementing agency for India's ambitious AI mission—a project with a budget of approximately 7,000 crore (equivalent to approximately $85 billion). Meanwhile, NITI Aayog assumed the role of providing strategic planning and support for the initiative.

The current vision for AI regulation in India centres on flexible, policy-driven approaches aimed at facilitating the responsible, transparent, and equitable deployment of AI. The overarching principles embedded in various government programmes and policy documents underscore the foundational tenets of this framework, which encompass safety, non-discrimination, transparency, and accountability. Nevertheless, certain uncertainties persist, particularly concerning the legal protection afforded to AI creations, the role of AI in corporate governance, and the liabilities arising from AI-driven decision-making processes. In light of these uncertainties, it becomes imperative for the evolving AI regulatory framework to not only address existing ambiguities but also to actively promote increased AI adoption across sectors.

This article is authored by Soumya Awasthi, IVLP fellow, US.

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