RETHINKING THE WAY AHEAD
India ranks third in the world in terms of high quality research publications in artificial intelligence (AI) but when parsed by metric citations, we stand fifth– only to suggests that we must work at improving the quality of our research outputs in AI
What makes us, humans, superior to all other beings? Intelligence. It has played the most crucial role in improving and improvising human's skills and the establishment of civilization. Intelligence is the driving force in our technical expedition. Using intelligence, we have achieved many feats including inventions. The computer is one of those inventions, which have influenced our life in every right or wrong way. Since the very first day of its invention, we have used them so much that our dependency on the computer has grown exponentially. We have improved the capability of these machines to a great extent so that they can do our job in a very short span.
During such human's endeavour to move technology to a different level so that living would be more easier, Computer scientist Allen Newell, Herbert Simon, John McCarthy, Marvin Minsky, and Arthur Samuel revealed the Artificial Intelligence Concept to the world in 1956. Its basic purpose was to create a computer-controlled robot or software that could solve a problem by thinking like humans. Like how the human brain first learns any problem, then process it, decides what to do and then finally thinks about how to do it. In the same way, artificial intelligence machines have been given all the details of the human brain so that they can perform a task in a better way. AI is being referred to as the technology of the future as it is expected to bring a revolutionary change in the world. The transformational impact of AI is being compared to that of electricity – a revolutionary one.
In modern times, competition has developed amongst humans and machines. Recently, while the Facebook team was researching Artificial Intelligence, two machines started communicating with each other leaving everyone to turn up for the books. The machines had developed a special coding language, which their human counterparts were not able to understand. Means, whatever the work a human can do, machines would also be able to do the same task and that too without any help from the human. In this context, machines can go rogue and pose every kind of threat to humans.
However, Google CEO Sundar Pichai differs and said, "We have learned to harness fire for the benefits of humanity but we had to overcome its downsides too. So my point is, AI is really important, but we have to be concerned about it." Artificial Intelligence has various benefits - it can be used in cancer treatment or addressing climate change-related problems. The creation of Artificial Intelligence is one of the biggest events in the history of human civilisations. But the truth is if there is no way to avoid its risk, then it can have serious consequences because, despite all the benefits, AI has its hazards.
At the moment, the world is exploring the positive aspects of AI. It is being used across various fields as it can help to solve complex concerns in various industries - entertainment, education, health, commerce, transportation, and utilities. Industries are now are investing billions to make AI more efficient. Recently, in a bid to accelerate the development and adoption to Artificial Intelligence-based technology, Japanese SoftBank Group launched the "Vision Fund 2" in which tech giants like Apple, Microsoft, Foxconn, and others will contribute. A whopping $108 billion will be invested in AI-related startups through this fund. Countries around the world are investing in AI to harness the potential economic and social benefits. The United Kingdom and China are expecting that by 2030, 10 per cent and 26 per cent of their GDP respectively will be earned from AI-related activities and businesses. From Apple's SIRI to self-driving car, AI is developing rapidly. With so many companies aggressively investing in AI tech, global investments are touted to achieve a growth rate of 50.1 per cent annually by 2021.
Adoption of AI in India remains limited. According to Intel & IDC survey, only 22 per cent of the companies in India uses AI in the business process. It's troubling given the country's prominence in the global IT industry. Indian IT companies have been slow to adapt to new technologies compared to their rivals in other countries. India stands at the fifth position - far behind the likes of China and the US and just edging ahead of France and Germany in field of AI. Our $160 billion annual revenue worth IT industry is yet to create any milestone in AI-based technology which may complement its potential. Nevertheless, they are already using AI to cut costs and automate their business process. For example, Wipro, TCS, and Infosys have built Holmes, Ingio, and Nia respectively to perform repetitive and dull tasks. Though promising, they are far from revolutionary. According to the Accenture report, AI could add up to $957 billion to India's economy by 2035- suggesting India's potential to grow extensively in AI.
But there are many barriers which may disrupt India from harnessing its potential in AI. Niti Aayog in its research has red-flagged various challenges which need to be addressed as soon as possible to establish a fundamental building block that will form the core to India's march towards leadership in AI. One of them is the lack of enabling data system. Sharing of data between organisations is still in progress as different organisations vary in interpretation of digitising records.
Appropriate handling of data while ensuring privacy and security is of prime importance as it is one of the primary drivers of AI solutions. Risk of data theft, usage without consent, and risk of identification of an individual through data always loom with the advent of AI. The low intensity of research is another key troubling area which needs to be addressed. Lack of funding has always been the Achilles heel for the R&D sector. Moreover, transforming research into the market application is another problem. Blame it on the lack of funding or any other reason, there are many original research and ideas covered under dust across the country. Inadequate availability of AI expertise, manpower and skilling opportunities, high resource cost, and low awareness for adopting AI in business processes are other factors which might stand as a barrier.
To accelerate the adoption of AI, the government is the one who needs to play a critical role in supporting partnerships, providing access to infrastructure, fostering innovation through research and creating demand by seeking solutions for various governmental needs. Niti Aayog research suggests establishing data protection framework and promotion of international standards like that of USA, UK, France, Japan or China, the Indian government needs to strategise an ambitious program that would ensure India its rightful place in this transformational era.
The other challenge we might face will be the job loss or changing nature of the job, which is not the hurdle in the AI adoption but rather an impact of AI adoption. We can learn from the past that whenever a new tech was introduced, people lost their jobs or were forced to adapt to totally different job roles. AI too has accelerated the disruption due to the wide range of capabilities it offers. It has changed the dynamics of the service sector while also being used in the manufacturing sector where no human involvement is required for a few of the tasks. This has left some people with lost jobs and the challenge of re-skilling.
According to a NASSCOM report, by 2022, around 46 per cent of the Indian workforce will be engaged in entirely new jobs that do not exist today. In the data domain, an independent study estimated that India will face a demand-supply gap of 2,00,000 data analytics professionals by 2020. AI might unevenly affect even traditional sectors. For example, agriculture is predicted to see a net decrease in jobs while the job opportunities in the construction sector are predicted to improve significantly. These large scale shifts in employment are very hard to predict and largely depend on the nature of the technology being developed as well as deployed using AI. Undoubtedly, jobs will be lost but we cannot rule out the fact that AI will create distinct and new job opportunities.
India's scale and opportunity landscape provide the ideal laboratory for sustainable AI research. Though it requires transformational intervention led by the government with the private sector providing suitable support to be a global leader while generating billions, India's approach towards AI should be a balance of both long-term as well as short-term impacts.and the greater good.