Navigating the realms of Artificial Intelligence

Col Shiv Choudhary (Retd)
In the dawn of the 21st century, the world witnessed a transformative arrival that would reshape the fabric of human existence – the advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI). This ground breaking technological evolution marked the convergence of human ingenuity and computational prowess, giving rise to machines capable of learning, reasoning, and adapting. Its arrival has brought forth promises of unprecedented innovation and efficiency while stirring debates about ethical implications, societal changes, threats, and the very nature of work and intelligence. Whatever, the reality is that the arrival of AI with its vast potential and intricate challenges, stands as a defining moment in our collective journey, raising questions about the future technological landscape and its impact on humanity. Thanks to the efforts of computer scientists such as Alan Turing, Marvin Minsky and John McCarthy for this phenomenon journey of AI some 70 years back.
No doubt AI is a buzz word today, but what is it actually? AI refers to machines that are designed to perform tasks which typically require human intelligence. These tasks include learning, reasoning, problem-solving, understanding natural language, and perception of the environment. In simpler terms, AI allows machines to mimic cognitive functions commonly associated with human minds.
“AI Spring” has not only arrived but is here to stay due to unlimited access to computing power, reducing data storage costs, and rapid explosion in digitization. India is no exception as this is a nation pulsating with vibrant culture, IT dominance, technological dynamism and thrilling intersection of traditions. The stunning invention is poised to leave an indelible mark on the nation’s trajectory, shaping its future in ways both unforeseen and extraordinary. This has opened new frontiers of possibilities and promising.
The scene in India is just unravelling. As per survey by Axis My India, 88% Indian suffer from lack of awareness and adoption of AI, another nine per cent of those surveyed know about these tools but do not use them. Just 1 percent out of 9567 respondents use these tools occasionally and another one percent use them rarely. As per PwC survey “India Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey 2023”, 51% Indians believe AI will help improve productivity at work. Twenty-four per cent of Indians, however, said that AI would negatively impact their work against global 14 per cent. The stark reality is that according to a recent report from Forrester, it is projected that Generative AI will replace approx. 2.4 million job positions in USA by 2030 and will have a significant impact on an additional eleven million roles. It is said that AI will become super intelligent in next 100 years surpassing human intelligence.
This survey highlighted that 62% of Indians believe that the skills required for their jobs will change significantly over every five years.According to a study conducted by Cisco for AI readiness, only 26% of organisations in India are fully equipped and prepared to implement and leverage AI technologies while one-third of companies in India are regarded as Laggards-unprepared at 1%. The good news is that India ranks 1st in terms of AI skill penetration with a score of 3.09 and has also recently secured the 1st and 5th ranks in a talent concentration and AI scientific publications, globally.Recognising AI’s potential, Indian NITO Aayog has established a National Programme on AI since 2019 with a view to transform economies, guide R and D and the need to strategize its approach in new and emerging technologies.
AI touches every aspect of our personal and professional online lives today. When we wake up, many of us are affected by the AI in whatever we do first. We instantly plug into AI functionality such as face ID, sign up, image recognition, emails, apps, social media accounts, air tags, chatbots, smart thermostats,refrigerators, and smart appliances, google search, digital voice assistants like Apple’s Siri, amazon’s Alexa, leisure downtime such as Netflix, Instagram, Facebook, twitter, alerts, validation, rejection, and a series of other surprising applications. Seems as if we are all enslaved.
There are a lot of myths and misconceptions surrounding AI. The most common are like AI is highly intelligent, understands like any human being, surpasses human capabilities, will replace all human being, creativity and jobs, infallible, can think and feel, separates fact from fiction, a threat, and finally a solution to every worldly problem. Indeed, the myth list is endless.
The reality is AI systems are designed to perform specific tasks. Certain jobs may be affected by automation, it also creates new opportunities demanding different skills. AI augments human capabilities rather than replacing entirely.It lack emotions, feelings, conscious, personal experiences, and subjective awareness. AI does not truly understand in the way humans do or replaces human. AI systems process data and make predictions based on inputs without comprehension.
“The idea that AI will inevitably turn against humanity is more of a Hollywood narrative than a realistic concern. AI is a powerful tool, but it’s not a panacea for all problem”.
What is the purpose of all this hype about AI to a common man? Humans are said to be productive only about 3 to 4 hours in a day and there after they need break to maintain work life balance, personal care, avoid errors and maintain consistency. AI can work endlessly without breaks, handle tedious repetitive jobs, think faster and perform multiple tasks at a time. AI can significantly reduce human errors and increase quality with accurate decisions.
AI has the potential to positively impact the lives of the average person in various ways. One can access to information using powered search engines despite diverse languages, dialects and need for translation. It has a wide range ofhealth care applications like diagnostic tools and telemedicine, remote access using robotsfor error free medical advice and services, analyse medical data, early detection and prevention.AI can enhance agricultural practices, providing farmers with insights on crop management, weather forecasts, pest control, improve crop yields and economic lot for farmers.
AI algorithms powered engines in e-commerce platforms offer personalized product suggestions for individual preferences and behaviours. It has redefined military planning and operational aspects and other related tasks like detecting mines, communication, controlling fire power and damage in case of accidents, sensors failure, depiction and deception of battle zones, and early warning system and drones reach.
The global AI market size was valued at USD 150.2 billion in 2023 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 36.8% from 2023 to 2030. The revenue forecast for 2030 is projected to touch $1345.2 billion. AI can transform productivity, contributing $15.7 trillion to global economy by 2030. The growth of AI in India is underpinned by thriving ecosystem that include start-ups, academic institutions, govt initiatives, and multinational corporations. Tata Elxsi Ltd, Bosch Ltd and Kelton Tech Solutions are the leading AI power houses in India.
While these potential benefits exist, it’s crucial to address challenges such as privacy concerns, ethical considerations, and the potential for job displacement. The solution lies in process designing, control and monitoring, adjustments, responsible development and deployment of AI technologies to maximize positive outcomes. The other challenges are an outcome of absence of collaborative effort between stakeholders, absence of robust open clinical data sets, security of data, lack of formal regulation, and lack of enabling data ecosystems.
Another area of concern is lack of intensive research in fundamental technologies such as inadequate availability of expertise, skilled manpower and opportunities, high cost and low awareness for adoptability in business. Unclear privacy, security and ethical regulations, unattractive intellectual property regime to incentivise research, and adoption of AI are equally big apprehensions.
Other biggest vulnerable class needing an over seeing eye are accountants, business analysists, civil engineers, credit controllers, education advisers, finance and investment analysts, human resources, interviewers, legal professionals, local government administrators, consultants, market researchers, psychologists, purchasing managers, payroll managers, solicitors, sales staff, statisticians, social and human scientists, vocational and industrial trainers, and instructors.
India produced a whopping 2.6 million 26 STEM graduates eight years back in 2016, second only to China and more than 4 times the graduates produced by USA. Sadly this overwhelming majority of this talent pool is focused on routine IT development. The evolution of AI is going to be consistent for several years and its achievements and challenges are growing and demanding beyond our expectations.It is important for upcoming generations to learn, understand, apply and make use of AI.
India’s unique challenges and aspirations, combined with the advancement in AI, and a desire to assume leadership in this nascent technology must be balanced for both local needs and global good. The way forward for India in AI has to factor in our current strengths in AI, or a lack thereof. This would require a large scale transformational interventions, with the support of private sector. Efforts must be concentrated across major themes of R and D, data democratisation, accelerating adoption and reskilling with privacy, security, ethics and intellectual property rights permeating as common denominators for all our recommended initiatives. This article is primarily aimed at clearing fog for better understanding.