Policy Engagements and Blogs

Understanding Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Dhruv Bhasin

August 3, 2018


Artificial Intelligence and its Simple Usage

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the intelligence displayed by machines such as computers by observing and learning from the environment, in a way similar to humans. It is based on the idea of building machines that can think, act and learn just like human beings and thus accomplish tasks that have historically required human intelligence. Whether it is the application of digital personal assistants, personalised recommendations for content on the Internet, the usage of applications like Google Maps for directions or the automatic categorisation of emails into ‘important’ and ‘spam’ folders – all these are simple instances of AI.

Ethical and Legal Concerns

AI has permeated the realms of ordinary life without us realising. While the above may be minor examples in the way the technolgy is used, there exist several larger breakthroughs. AI has noteworthy applications in various fields including healthcare, agriculture, transportation, aviation, finance, education, marketing etc. The most interesting use of this technology is in the development of self-driving cars. While consumer cars with the autopilot function that can park, steer and brake by themselves exist today, there is a race to see who can create a car that is absolutely driverless. This has created an ethical dilemma that is worth probing: In case of an unavoidable accident, who does the AI save – the pedestrians on the road or the passengers in the car? How is such a decision, concerning human life, made? Is the machine playing God by making such choices? And, in such an accident, who is to be blamed and punished, considering the absence of a driver.

The Way Forward

While AI is slowly replacing human beings in tasks that can be observed and learned, one must question whether it can really ever replicate human emotions and interaction? Clearly, our relationships with each other are undergoing a change as AI gets better at modelling human behavior. We must recognise that a line should be drawn when it comes to the use of such technology. At a time when even groceries can be ordered using AI, eliminating any need for human contact, it is evident that AI is changing the functioning of society as we know it. While this technology offers innumerable positives, it is essential to exercise some caution so that unknowingly we are not controlled by a technology that was invented to simplify our lives. It is also important to tackle the challenges that come with the use of AI, such as privacy and security concerns, the lack of awareness, lack of data, and high costs of adoption. This would enable a smooth transition for all, as people slowly migrate from traditional technologies that AI will now replace.

This learning video has been produced by Centre for Policy Research as part of the Metamorphoses- Talking Technology project, being executed in partnership with the India International Centre and NITI Aayog.