Artificial Intelligence is here to stay. From “AI powered cameras” in smartphones to the first robot citizen of a country (Sophia), AI’s popularity is certainly bullish. The youth particularly is interested in AI. Many of us like to visualize how the world will be in 10 or 20 years. All the interesting things that are happening, from Space exploration to self-driving cars, are within the purview of Artificial Intelligence. While AI seems to be presenting humanity a new future, there are some genuine concerns and worries. It is becoming more and more important for us to understand AI. What’s important is, AI also needs to be explained to the general public, from the socio-political point of view.
Rajiv Malhotra’s book, “Artificial Intelligence and the future of power” is an attempt to do this. It covers 5 battlegrounds: Economy, Global Power, Psychological control, Metaphysics and India’s future.
The book starts by stating that it is “Dedicated to the young scientists and technocrats”. Let us explore 5 reasons why the youth should read this book.
1. Tech enthusiast much?
The buzz around artificial intelligence is pretty dense. As with many new technologies, artificial intelligence has created a gold rush effect.
” Artificial Intelligence is rapidly becoming embedded in the world around us, often hidden yet ubiquitous. This is called ambient AI and it is becoming seamlessly integrated into the fabric of our lives.”(page 5)
In the book, one can find discussions on the applications of AI: Healthcare, Transportation, Agriculture, Military, Financial Services, Education, Social Sciences, Gamification and Social Engineering, Games, Tourism, Art.
I’m sure all of you must have watched the Youtube exclusive docuseries “The Age of A.I.” It does a great job in showcasing the various feats that we have been able to achieve in the realm of AI development.
Normally, outside the academic front, AI is often presented in two extreme forms: the highly optimistic view and the “Robots will end humanity” view. But it is important to understand that in order to progress in the fast and ever expanding AI-centric world that we are creating, AI and its implications have to be looked at in a holistic and realistic manner.
The book attempts to do this. In addition to introducing people to AI ( all sections of the society, irrespective of the current industry they work in), Rajiv Ji wants people to understand that extensive public discussions are the need of the day in which various stakeholders ought to be included. AI needs democracy!
“ Big Data that is OF the people and generated BY the people must only be used FOR the people. ”
So, if you are a technology enthusiast, you are in for a treat.
2. Are you an AI student or building a career in AI?
“ PricewaterhouseCoopers has forecasted that the total world GDP will increase by up to 14% by the year 2030 as a result of AI, suggesting that almost sixteen trillion dollars of additional economic activity will be added to the world economy during this decade alone. “(page 108)
Nowadays, a lot of degree programs focussing on AI, Data Science, and ML are coming up. I’m pursuing two degrees ( one in AI & the other in Data Science) myself. Particularly online graduate degrees in Data Science are in demand. Career transition is becoming a common thing.The book does a great job in explaining the up and coming “AI Economy”. It also deals with the various nuances of the industry and clears several common misconceptions. If you are working on AI, then it is also your responsibility to understand what AI holds for the future.
India lags behind in the AI game. According to Rajiv Ji, we are a decade behind than China. While a good percentage of people working on AI around the globe are Indians, most of the code they write is owned by the company, based out of a number of countries except India.
Indian companies have now resorted to providing outsourcing services at best.
“ Young Indians pursued their studies and careers solely as personal opportunities, and not as part of an overall societal goal directed by a centralized, coordinated plan. “( page 123 )
This needs to change. And we all need to be part of the change.So, whether you are a tech entrepreneur, employed in the AI industry, or are a student, you’ve got a lot to learn from this work. It is well worth the time.
3. Want to know if a Vedic AI system is possible? Want to participate in it’s making?
” As a college undergraduate, I immersed myself in the nascent field of consciousness studies and discovered that renowned theoretical physicists, such as Werner Heisenberg and Erwin Schrödinger, had been inspired by Vedic insights and used them as the philosophical lens for understanding quantum mechanics. “(introduction)
The book discusses various possibilities and implications of the emergence of AI. While discussing the various applications, AI is also critically examined as a major disruptor.The chapters 4 and 5 deal with how AI is being used to “hack the human mind” and expose how AI’s influence is empowering the opposite camp of materialism. Most of the people presume that AI algorithms are truly neutral. Guess what? They are not, they are too under the purview of “Western Universalism” ( A term excellently explained in the book: “Being Different”). What is “socially right”, what is “ethical”, what comes under “community guideline” is decided by Big Tech, based on western notions of ethics.
This is where “Vedic Social Theory” comes into play.
“ Vedic social theory is based on dharma as the foundation on which artha (pursuit of material prosperity) and kama (pursuit of desires) can be enjoyed. But if these are indulged without dharma, the result is an unhealthy society. “( page 323 )
The book is meant to be a “bitter pill” to be swallowed by us, in order to wake up and be aware of AI, and how intimate it is to us now. Rajiv ji is going to present solutions to this AI dilemma in his upcoming books. If AI has negative and dangerous implications, do we just abandon AI, or could there be a Dharmic conscious approach to AI?
This is not just a book, rather this is the start of a new phase in the R&D of AI, the Dharmic way.
You can participate too! Start by subscribing to the mailing list ( https://www.aiandpower.com/register/ )
4. “YOUth” can lead. An important book for future politicians.
“ Current political systems are not prepared to deal with the radical changes that AI will engender. Social disenfranchisement, population changes, political upheaval, shifting perceptions of societal norms, and worsening class distinctions will create widespread unrest. “( page 4 )
If AI is a big disruptor of everything: from Economy to Spirituality, imagine it’s role in the future of politics ! The book discusses what is called “Gamification and Social Engineering”. One could start with social theory, use it as a basis for constructing policies and values for social, economic, and political processes, and then establish specific guidelines for evaluating actions, and eventually gamify it to transform social behavior.
“ This AI-driven gamification amplifies whatever values and goals are built into it, and there is no such thing as an absolute, universal or neutral worldview. This is the future of social sciences and politics. “( page 43 )
The Youth in this world faces big challenges like Climate Change. But AI is something that can integrate all these challenges and multiply the magnitude of these issues.Therefore, understanding AI and its socio-political implications is increasingly becoming important. Big Data is being used by big tech. An important learning from the book is, not only there is the issue of data privacy, but also the threat of data manipulation. Machine Learning and Deep learning algorithms contribute a lot to this.It is the responsibility of today’s youth leaders and technocrats to formulate policies and regulations which could protect the future generation from commodification by the big tech and ensure a level playing field in the AI industry.
The book also exposes the “Breaking India Forces 2.0”. Is AI an existential threat to India?
The book gives out many reasons for this, the country’s vulnerabilities: overpopulation, low levels of schooling, Byzantine instability, industrial and technical obsolescence, political turmoil, and security challenges from formidable neighbors.
” India’s existing equilibrium is precarious due to risks from what I have termed the breaking India forces. All these factors make it urgent to engage in an unemotional stress test of India’s sovereignty as it relates to the latest technological disruptions. “( page 268 )
The youth should gear up for the disruptions by AI in the Indian political system, which is already a hodgepodge of various players with vested interests.
5. Future of humanity? ( Since youth is the future generation )
There is no denying that AI presents a very exciting future. The “AI-centric” future has been represented by a number of artists throughout the years. Be it movies like: “Her”, “I, robot”, or video games like “cyberpunk 2077” or “Detroit: Become Human”, there have been unique representations of AI. What is common in all of them is the representation of singularity, a hypothetical point in time, when AI systems will reach a point where they can self-improve in a recurring and accelerating fashion. But can AI actually become conscious one day? Or is there something distinct between Humans and algorithms? This is covered in the part one of the book, “Algorithm vs Being”.
Mind uploading, the hypothetical concept of making a copy of this inner world and transferring it into a computer to run a simulation of your consciousness, is also becoming more and more popular. Infact, the story of the video game, “cyberpunk 2077” is based on this particular idea. The popular netflix series, “Altered Carbon” also follows this idea.But it is very important for us to have a comprehensive idea of the implications such technologies will have on the individual self and the society at large. Chapter 5, “The Battle for Self” takes up this issue.
“ At some point, the elites will argue their case for depopulating the earth. The AI technologies of emotional manipulation and gratification will be used by the elites to seduce the masses to acquiesce and voluntarily surrender their agency to AI-based digital systems. “( page 204 )
The need for the hour is that we first accept the reality. Believing, “AI has no place in the world” is one level of ignorance. At the same time, believing that “AI is neutral, AI poses no threat, surrendering yourself to AI is okay, AI will only create new jobs” is another level of ignorance.
People throughout the tech industry have varying thoughts on AI. As an example, in 2019, in a conversation between Elon Musk and Jack Ma, both of them had a disagreement on the threats of AI. The Chinese entrepreneur said he was “quite optimistic” about AI and thought it was nothing for “street smart” people like them to be scared of. “I don’t know man, that’s like famous last words,” responded Tesla’s chief.
By contrast, Mr Musk suggested that mass unemployment was a real concern. “AI will make jobs kind of pointless,” he claimed Elon Musk has said that AI is “the biggest risk we face as a civilization”.
But interestingly, he switched sides and invested in research for AI-based interventions in the human brain.