NEWS Without adequate safeguards, AI can widen social and economic schisms, leading to discriminatory outcomes.
AI’S EXPONENTIAL GROWTH
- AI is embedded in the recommendations we get on our favourite streaming or shopping site; in GPS mapping technology; in the predictive text that completes our sentences when we try to send an email or complete a web search etc.
- The more we use AI, the more data we generate, the smarter it gets.
- In just the one decade, it has evolved with unprecedented velocity.
- Automation, big data and algorithms will continue to sweep into new corners of our lives.
- Just as electricity allowed us to tame time, enabling us to radically alter virtually every aspect of existence, AI can leapfrog us toward eradicating hunger, poverty and disease.
- It is capable of opening us to unimaginable pathways for climate change mitigation, education and scientific discovery.
POSITIVE TRANSFORMATIONS BY AI
- 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.
- Google has identified over 2,600 use cases of “AI for good” worldwide.
- A study reviewing the impact of AI on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) finds that AI may act as an enabler on 79% of all SDG targets.
- The study also finds that AI can actively hinder 35% of SDG targets.
- AI requires massive computational capacity, which means more power-hungry data centres resulting in a big carbon footprint.
- Also, AI could compound digital exclusion.
- Robotics and AI companies are building intelligent machines that replace low-income workers, such as self-service kiosks to replace cashiers, fruit-picking robots to replace field workers, etc. Possibly in coming days many desk jobs will also be edged out by AI, such as accountants, financial traders and middle managers.
- Therefore, without clear policies on reskilling workers, the promise of new opportunities can create serious new inequalities.
- Investment is likely to shift to countries where AI-related work is already established, widening gaps among and within countries.
AI- DOUBLE EDGED SWORD
- Though AI has the potential to improve billions of lives, it can also replicate and exacerbate existing problems, and create new ones.
- For example, AI facial recognition and surveillance technology discriminating against people of colour and minorities. Or an AI-enhanced recruitment engine, based on existing workforce profiles, taught itself that male candidates were preferable to female.
- AI also presents serious data privacy concerns.
- The algorithm’s never-ending quest for data has led to our digital footprints being harvested and sold without our knowledge or informed consent.
- Today, it is no exaggeration to say that with all the discrete bytes of information floating about us online, the algorithms know us better than we know ourselves.
- They can nudge our behaviour without our noticing.
- Our level of addiction to our devices, the inability to resist looking at our phones, and the chilling case of Cambridge Analytica — in which such algorithms and big data were used to alter voting decisions — should serve as a potent warning of the individual and societal concerns resulting from current AI business models.
- Without ethical guard rails, AI will widen social and economic schisms, amplifying any innate biases at an irreversible scale and rate and lead to discriminatory outcomes.
- It is neither enough nor is it fair to expect AI tech companies to solve all these challenges through self-regulation. As they are not alone in developing and deploying AI; governments also do so.
- Only a “whole of society” approach to AI governance will enable us to develop broad-based ethical principles, cultures and codes of conduct, to flourish and bring about the extraordinary breakthroughs it promises.
- Given the global reach of AI, such a “whole of society” approach must rest on a “whole of world” approach.
GLOBAL INITIATIVES IN THIS DIRECTION
- The UN Secretary-General’s Roadmap on Digital Cooperation lays out the need for multi-stakeholder efforts on global cooperation so AI is used in a manner that is “trustworthy, human rights-based, safe and sustainable, and promotes peace”.
- UNESCO has developed a global, comprehensive standard-setting draft Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence to Member States for deliberation and adoption.
- Many countries, including India, are cognisant of the opportunities and the risks, and are striving to strike the right balance between AI promotion and AI governance.
- INDIA – NITI Aayog’s Responsible AI for All strategy, recognises that our digital future cannot be optimised for good without multi-stakeholder governance structures that ensure the dividends are fair, inclusive, and just.
CONCLUSION Agreeing on common guiding principles and implementing them in reality is a difficult task to do. Therefore, we must be prepared for deep, difficult, multi-stakeholder ethical reflection, analyses and resolve. Only then will AI provide humanity its full promise.