At a recently held innovative summit, Kris Gopalakrishna, the Co-Founder of Infosys expounded on the opportunities, Artificial Intelligence, bestowed to humanity. In one word, he says, the opportunities are immense.
Although technologies surrounding AI have a compelling use-case, public discussions invariably associate themselves with the dangers that lurk ahead. At times, even bizarre monsters like Frankenstein confront one’s imagination.
Speaking at a CII innovative Summit, Gopalakrishna, who has served as CII’s Summit’ Chairman at least 14 times, observed that Artificial Intelligence needed a great responsibility towards its appropriate use.
Conceptualisation of artificially generated intelligence for performing human tasks extend over time immemorial with many prehistoric references from ancient mythology of Greek, Persian, Chinese, Indian and various other civilizations revealing such happenings as magical rather than scientific occurrences.
With scientific, mathematical and logical theory evolving over the centuries of active research and experimentation, it graduated from mythical illusion to scientific fiction and gradually into real-life possibilities.
With algorithms that could now be built into systems that can chew into vast data-bases from general domains as well as personal and private domains it is now possible to analyze and use human intelligence in various applications for performing variety of tasks.
Will AI become a Trespasser?
However, with the rapid invasion of AI into every aspect of human activity and likely intrusion into privacy there remains two controversial opinions expressed by prominent personalities on the need of regulation in AI.
One relates to the fears of the risk this technology may cause, which includes total take-over of the planet by machines and robots at the cost of extermination of entire human race.
The other relates to stifling impacts on AI's technological development and research activities. This will be the challenge faced by all regulatory authorities and policy makers as they balance the two conflicting requirements; like, handling a precarious double-edged sword.
Thus, while all its potential opportunities should be harnessed without impediments to such research and development processes; all impending risk factors of intrusion into privacy or threats to human welfare have to be under a stringent surveillance.
Such a control over the fast mushrooming technology which deals with human intelligence without infringing privacy rights and safe-guard personal freedom is an uphill task for any regulatory body.
Today’s world of information technology has thrown open a vast potential of luxurious and convenient opportunities in health, finance, education, governance, employment and many other services for human comfort. While the Internet of things is bringing such services at the tip of one's finger, there are sinister dangers lurking in black hat crackers called for operating against cyber laws. Crackers, who can practically invade into any information database system.
Recently, there was an instance of Chinese mandarin script characters on the home page of Indian Defence Website proving that even this supposedly most secure site can be hacked.
Today’s Aadhar system which is probably one of the biggest data bank on the citizens of India is a disputed site on this count, with many opposing any mandatory imposition of it on the populace.
The former Chief of UIDAI - Unique Identification Authority of India and current Chairman of TRAI - Telephone Regulatory Authority of India RS Sharma was left red-faced when his open challenge on the veracity of Aadhar while revealing his Aadhaar number had his personal details tracked with one rupee deposited into his bank account.
What to learn from RS Sharma's experience
Similar is the fear that confronts many in the use of digital banking and currency.
CERT-In, the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team found 22,207 Indian websites that include 114 government websites hacked during April 2017 and January 2018 with 493 among them used for malware propagation.
In February 2017 Ministry of Home Affairs’ website was hacked and immediately blocked by NIC – National Informatics Centre. Websites hosted on NICNET were also not spared by the black-net hackers.
Rajya Sabha website was hacked and BJP President Amit Shah’s email inbox gained access where text messages that can be sent by public to its members on their official numbers.
Thus, how qualified our information database systems are to safe-guard them from trespassers will be a question that can continue to haunt both the highly enthusiastic and wary users of these systems.
With rising data breaches everywhere, customers shopping on-line through e-commerce models have had their personal information and also credit card details hacked through unknown sources. Adidas, K-Mart, Sears, Best Buy, Saks 5th Avenue are among the many retail businesses whose cyber-security could not ward-off such hackers.
Google was held for Android competition breach, putting one of the largest communities of internet users in the world at the mercy of black-hat operators. Now, it’s becoming clearer that hackers can always find some way to trespass into any information system and gather highly confidential and very sensitive data, no matter what cyber-security is embedded into it.
Another serious doubt that plagues the onset of AI is the reliability of data assimilation. The National Registry of Citizens’ (NRC) census and demographic survey faced flak in Assam after as many as 40 lakh people out of an estimated 3.29 crore applicants were not initially listed as citizens.
This stirred-up a raging controversy across the nation, regarding authenticity of such NRC reports and the Government authorities conducting them, as among those left out include former army personnel, MLAs, kin of former President of India, and members from within families.
The full potential of AI will continue to remain out of bounds, in the wake of such controversies surrounding quality and reliability of accurate data acquisition. An extremely versatile regulatory framework with protection from undesirable elements, and efficient AI applications to perform human tasks is the need of the hour.
Navigating the Regulatory Frameworks:
Increasingly complex standards for regulatory compliance, empowered through legislation have to be framed considering the high-risk of invasion into people’s privacy posed by AI technologies.
However, this will also make it extremely difficult for start-up and corporate companies to fulfill them and meet the ethical requirements as ever-expanding applications of AI services hit market, both from customer demand and business opportunities.
It is not in interest of human progress to obstruct capabilities that unfold developments of a great value addition to humanity because certain risks related to likelihood of abuse may be generated as an off-shoot.
It's with this thought process that industrial revolution occurred, albeit related standards and legislation.
Similarly, with the information age settling in, the capability maturity models (CMM) evolved, with presently Level-5 companies certified to this standard.
Also, standards of information security have been established by International Standards Organization (ISO) with certain companies getting accreditation to it by certifying to ISO/IEC 29100:2011, which has been reviewed and confirmed in 2017.
There is a Factory Act, Labor Act, Environment Act, Water, Air & other Acts that have a legal and legislative jurisdiction to ensure stringent control over any abuse in these areas while leveraging related resources.
In a similar manner Regulatory Authorities are constituting law and standards through high level Judiciary committees and international bodies for the safe-use of AI applications, without hampering related research and development activities.
Conferences and knowledge sharing portals hosted by agencies such as CII must be applauded for enlightening the masses on cutting-edge technologies that are shaping-up our world today for the future.
MSR Sathyanarayana is a management consultant associated with various companies. He has also served as the Chairman for the Coimbatore Chapter of the National Institution for Quality and Reliability.