Position Statement on India's AI Adoption Approach [Gateway House Piece]
Submitted by Ankur Pandey and Sarmad Ahmad, Research Interns on the Indian AI Adoption Approach based on a Gateway House article by Chaitanya Giri.
Our civilisation’s relationship with AI research and development has had its own twists turns through the decades. While there exists various literature on the variety of descriptions of a likely “artificial sentient being” across global history, the sheer amount of global effort, adoption, and adaptation towards AI in the 21st century are unquantifiable.
With the increasing application of AI across various sectors and speculations on the utility and applications of the same globally; what is often overlooked is the amount of necessary reflection upon the principles and direction towards AI adoption. In other words, if “what” and “why” we are doing with AI is understood, are we clear on “how” we are doing it?
The history of Artificial Intelligence has been that of a persistent attempt to mimic Natural Intelligence. While it is generally perceived that Natural Intelligence refers to the ability to reason, solve complex problems, and learn, it is much broader than that. It involves comprehending our surroundings and co-evolving with it. It is not limited to human and animal brains as nature also demonstrates decision making abilities in even single-celled organisms. However, most of the progress in the field of AI has been limited by our own understanding of natural intelligence. This has resulted in the issue of AI being anthropomorphized.
The discipline of AI faces another constraint. Despite the initial impetus on a multi-disciplinary approach, the recent developments in AI run the risk of being obsessed with Information Technology and engineering domains.
Paving the Way: The Indian Approach to AI
The intention behind AI research and development is quite straightforward and commonly understood; the objective is to manifest computer software and programs that can carry out tasks that normally require the capability of human intelligence to solve. This essentially outsources complex and intricate problems to intelligent software that is capable of tackling them, and eventually could assess them better than human intellect itself. However, in order to get AI to operate on par with human intelligence as a starting point, it has to be based upon a rudimentary foundation; and that can be constructed effectively by making it mimic its human counter-part.
Efforts pushed into recreating this intelligence has resulted in the creation of various branches of computer programming that aim towards breaking down the abstract concept of intelligence into various small operations that would constitute the bigger picture of it; i.e. machine learning, natural language processing, computation, etc, that all are inspired from naturally occurring biochemical phenomena and organisms, and attempt to recreate the same.
However, focusing extensive efforts towards assessing “what” constitutes intelligence emphasises a lack of effort being pushed towards its “how”. Human intelligence, or for the lack of a better word than better includes the entirety of the human experience, consciousness (which includes intelligence and are not meant to be interchanged) is influenced by a plethora of stimuli around it, including consciousness itself.
Developing an understanding of the variety of stimuli that influence the human consciousness is critical to artificially recreating one facet of it; intelligence. As our global civilisation heads towards collective AI research and development, the development of this understanding will be crucial towards each nation state’s individual efforts towards AI; as each state not only harbours its own customs, laws and traditions, but also cultures, languages, societal behaviours, art, literature and rational thought, all of which creations a state-specific manifestation of human consciousness, and indirectly, intelligence.
Herein, understanding the diversity of the Indian state is key towards AI research and development if India aims towards a holistic AI research and development sphere. This can be done effectively through co-nurturing a variety of scientific disciplines, i.e. neuroscience, cellular biology, robotics, but also nurturing alongside it disciplines that understand life and sentience in a different perspective, i.e, philosophies of various schools of thought, psychology, social sciences, art and its theories, etc.
While in a developing country like India, the focus of AI seems to be on solving immediate socio-economic issues, we should not lose sight of long term investment in the discipline. Since every country has a different approach to AI development based on its own civilizational understanding, diversity is bound to accelerate the growth of the field. India needs to prepare a plan which takes into consideration our understanding of natural intelligence and indigenous philosophy.
The two ancient schools of Indian philosophy- Nyaya and Vaisheshika, shall be particularly relevant in our AI strategy. These schools deal with Indian Logic, which is defined as the science of ascertaining valid knowledge either by means of senses or syllogism. Thus, essentially, perception and inference are the subject matter of logic. AI is nothing but a knowledge-based intelligent system that deals with language, logic, and cognition. Similarly, the indigenous principles of sustainable development will find relevance with the advancement in the field of AI.
The AI systems were aimed to co-exist alongside humans tackling challenging scenarios together. As of now, AI systems, limited by their lack of self-awareness, feeling and volition are nothing but tools used by humans to achieve desired ends. To bridge this wide gap between AI and natural intelligence, we need to invest in long term strategies involving a deeper understanding of natural sciences based on our indigenous philosophies. A multi-disciplinary approach involving collaboration among different branches of knowledge- sciences and social sciences- will go a long way in the advancement of the disciplines.
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