I started reading the book with a mindset to disagree with the analysis. But just got carried away, did not find anything major to differ. As a technologist and an MBA graduate, there is nothing much to disagree on the jobs and economics front as I have heard both sides of the arguments. The difference that Rajiv ji brings is the scale at which the impact is observed across countries, regions within a country, communities with in a region based on the level and quality of education and the rate at which upskill/reskill happens. This ultimately leads to a partition in society; super rich vs super poor on the material (sthUla) front.
While I am writing this, I am listening to a podcast of Kevin Scott, CTO of Microsoft. He quotes from Enrico Moretti’s book “The New Geography of Jobs” – that a single high-skilled job can create five lower-skilled jobs inside of the community where the high-skilled job is created. This creates hope, but the real outcome will be time tested. Proposed solutions to Indian labor market are more of reactionary approach that produce more and more digital coolies. A little diversion, there is one point made in the book saying that women are not accounted for while measuring unemployment rate in India, I believe it is OK.
We can build a beautiful economic argument based on culture and three generational family system where the woman is central caretaker looking after younger and older generations without taking any salary. Needed emotional, financial, healthcare support etc., are well managed within family safety-net. We know the situation in the West , especially the US where the burden is transferred to the state safety-net because of the broken family and marriage system.
Now, as to who have kept their long-term bets on AI for future dominance, it is a clear-cut race between China and USA. In fact, with in next 5 to 10 years, China wants to beat USA. One may argue on the methods adopted by China; beg, buy, borrow, steal, more importantly innovate on top of it.
As an Indian, the natural question is where is India in this battle ground? I have watched few videos per battle ground on YouTube, three persons really stood out so far: Prof Kamakoti ji, Sharad Sharma ji (proponent of public goods and services with private innovation, his vision of India becoming a product nation) and Raghu ji (Infy India head). One thing that I did not understand from Raghu ji is – “forced business model” when asked why the likes of Infosys failed to invest in R&D and Innovation by allocating certain profits earned out of software services and Rajiv ji argued that it is the principle difference how and where China invested its profits share after becoming manufacturing super power. Also lack of strategic thinking related to academic-military-industry complex which is clearly observed in USA (DARPA, Driverless car initiative) and China. Having said all of that, the silver lining is that all three have acknowledged the challenges ahead for India. Many took optimistic views related to India’s bet on AI while Rajiv ji appears to have taken an aggressive stance saying India is at least one decade behind in the race.
As a dharmic and Karmic person (with Sraddha, Bhakthi and Ruchi on Vedanta), the real question is what these AI advancements (smarter machines) mean to human race in the long run? Rajiv ji has coined many terminologies: Algorithm vs Being, Happy Moron, Moronization of masses, smart machine vs dumb humans.
All of these ultimately question the agency- the ultimate decision-making authority (man vs out-sourced to machine) and what happens to “free will” (from Gita) of the “self”? in other words, who controls the sUkshma sharIr? Rajiv ji takes us into the future possibilities where ultimately human society will be bi-partitioned: Super humans who are well augmented with AI implants to enhance their physical, biological and mental abilities vs morons whose aesthetics will be kept under control, well managed through artificial gratification and injected emotions by taking them into fantasy worlds via AR, VR so that they won’t revolt.
In addition, there are powerful arguments built around how the big-techs (devatas – Google, Twitter, Facebook) will keep close surveillance and play with aesthetics to win pragmatically. How these platforms decide what is right and wrong ? How the new age social-sciences are using AI to get a deeper understanding into social psych and map them accordingly so that they can easily penetrate and divide societies on various fault-lines at a much faster rate (return of the EIC).
With all that, where lies the solution? I really liked the idea of protecting and democratizing the data assets (data-grid). Consumers must have a say on the data that they generate related to its usage, probably options of incentivizing them for the data from the model builders need to be explored (Ex: Neeva – subscription-based search engine, they are sharing 20% sales with content providers when the search engine unlocks the content). There is also a need to address the concerns about potential misuse, misapplication or risks, biases from data and programmers (coded bias) associated with the technology. There is no silver bullet, it is going to be concerted effort by the engineers, the scientists, the ethicists etc.,
India has a natural advantage to take from nyAya, sAnkhya and yoga ShAstrAs that can address some of the challenges posed by AI. India should carve out a dedicated ministry for AI, build decentralized institutions that carry R&D from a village panchayat level. Create per-industry task force and study the impact of AI, revamp the education system to meet the new demands (NEP 2020, is a first good step in terms of policy but the crux lies in implementation and having frameworks to measure the outcome). Strategically working on building academic-industry-military complex and giving students, the opportunity to work on exciting initiatives. Increase the GDP spending on AI R&D for few years. Even after doing all of this, India will only be able to reduce the gap or at max able to catch-up with China and US in AI. After that, it is anyone’s game.