Illustration: Chaitanya Dinesh Surpur
Artificial intelligence (AI) is fast becoming a topic that is relevant to everyone today and, therefore, a subject that everyone ought to learn at least the rudiments of, say experts. From the humble milkman delivering packets of milk to households in the morning to the highest lawmakers and biggest industrialists, AI will increasingly touch everyone.
“A lot of people look at AI as a vertical that calls for experts to develop,” says Amit Anand, founding partner at Jungle Ventures, a VC firm in Singapore that has invested in several tech startups in India. However, both in his own mind and as an advisor to the Singapore government on the ethical use of AI, “We have taken a view that AI is going to affect everybody, and hence everyone should be knowledgeable and have a certain level of understanding of AI.”
Singapore has taken a multi-pronged approach, he continues. One aspect of this is that the country has created policies to help corporations and startups deal with conflicts when AI becomes mainstream. Singapore is developing the frameworks needed for this. The government is also creating institution-level platforms that can facilitate data from different sources to be captured so it can feed into different AI models and applications.
The government has also complemented this with education at the grassroots level, Anand says, with centres of excellence and so on. The common man should know “what happens when an AI programme takes over his loan processing”, for example. “How do you get the consumers ready for that wave, because it’s coming,” he says.
“There has been an explosion of use cases that take advantage of AI across industries,” says Sumit Sarawgi, managing director and senior partner at Boston Consulting Group. In parallel, there has been an explosion of data that large companies and their end-consumers are generating, he adds.
This now makes it even more urgent that organisations around the world proactively embrace ways
of using AI in a responsible manner. While on the one hand, AI can make for better quality of services, improve customer experience and boost the financial performance of companies, the need to ensure its responsible use has also increased.
In Europe, for example, the European Union has published proposals for rules on AI, which include banning certain uses of AI, heavily regulating high-risk uses and lightly regulating less risky AI systems. In India, Niti Aayog, a government-backed think tank, released a discussion paper towards a national strategy for AI three years ago. Subsequently, in January 2020, a follow-on paper was also released on developing AI-specific technology infrastructure.
In the past, India didn’t capture its share of benefits from technological advancements, such as semiconductor manufacturing, for example. Today, there is recognition that the country can’t afford to miss the AI bus.