There has been an exponential growth in the capabilities of Artificial Intelligence (AI). The emergent properties of Generative AI are not understood or explainable by the Modelers themselves. While earlier Foundations models were merely stochastic parrots statistically generating information based on what data they had been trained, new models of AI are emerging where AI can use various tools, act, observe, and update its behavior. These approaches can lead to far more powerful AI than GPT-4.
It is now evident that the emergence of powerful AI, with all its transformational potential, could also be the harbinger of chaotic – and potentially catastrophic – consequences for humanity. Finding an answer to this existential question is a categorical imperative for all nations including India. This will enable the global community to engage, negotiate and agree upon the rules of the game for the future development of AI that serves the goals of the global community and does not cross ethical thresholds. The thus- far-no-further principle has been invoked in the past as well. For example, there was a universal agreement on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. Similarly, cloning technology was also restricted after Dolly the sheep was cloned.
We are fully aware that for a developing country like India, application of AI in various fields provides an opportunity to pole-vault the traditional, linear growth paths. Deploying advanced technologies optimally and strategically can create a potent mix of resources and infrastructure that can yield more equitable and more sustainable growth. For a remarkably young country like India, with a median age of 29, AI offers a huge opportunity to raise labour productivity, build a knowledge society and further enhance our demographic dividend.
At the same time, it is also clear that AI could put millions of jobs at risk almost overnight. The dizzying pace of the ongoing digital revolution has meant that AI is inveigling itself into the economic, psychosocial, and cultural aspects of human life at an unprecedented speed. The downstream effects of adopting technologies such as AI without essential due diligence and appropriate safeguards can cause unprecedented disruption of the existing social order. We know that technological progress is inexorable and overall beneficial. Yet we have to manage it carefully to avoid unmanageable socio-economic disruptions at scale.
The recent Open Letter issued by the Future of Life Institute calls upon all AI labs worldwide to pause for six months the training of AI systems more powerful than GPT 4. They suggest that this time should be used to assess how to manage their profound impact on all aspects of human life. India should also use this time to draw up its own blueprint for AI development so as to harness all possible benefits of AI while minimizing socio-economic disruption.
Against this backdrop, we urge all stakeholders – IT researchers, policymakers, academicians in other disciplines, industry leaders, and members of the civil society – to join this vital debate that will help evolve a national consensus on how best to utilise this powerful technology for achieving our national goals and meeting the exploding aspirations of our young population.
Chairman Pahle India Foundation
Co-founder iSPIRT Foundation
CEO, Zoho Corporation
Chairman, Swadeshi Shodh Sansthan