Artificial Intelligence Could Boost Good Governance
Published on 21 Feb, 2017
Applied Artificial Intelligence (AI) is definitely gaining significant ground among enterprises. It can also help governments to usher in better governance, and ultimately, improve overall growth and development.
Artificial Intelligence evokes a whole gamut of reactions. The cinematic world has been taking unrestrained creative liberty for ages. Such ambiguities that hound Artificial Intelligence (AI) clearly stem from an inherent lack of understanding of its root concepts. Interestingly, in one form or the other, the human race is already surrounded with AI. The era of Artificial Intelligence has begun.
Let’s delve a little deeper.
The truest form of AI is referred to as Strong AI or True AI, which is the stage when machines can behave as skillfully and flexibly as humans. At this stage, machines are capable of making decisions for humans, such as completely autonomous cars, or personal assistants that can choose to approve or reject appointments. Obviously, all while aligned to human values. Hopefully.
There are predictions about the rise of conscious machines since the advent of artificial intelligence itself. Ray Kurzweil, Director of Engineering, Google, refers to a point in time known as ‘the singularity’, when machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence. Kurzweil has predicted that the singularity will occur by 2045 based on Moore's law, which states that computing processing power doubles approximately every two years.
The biggest underlying risk of developing such machines is its own ability to develop “machine intelligence” that will always find loopholes in human intelligence and may not approve of customizations provided by its developers. Prominent technology celebrities such as Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, and Bill Gates have also warned us against Strong AI (True AI). They, notably, had been quoted stating Strong AI could potentially destroy the human race.
In complete contrast to such anxiety and confusion, there exists Applied AI (AAI) since a few decades. AAI, unlike Strong AI, does not attempt to simulate the full range of a human being’s cognitive abilities. AAI is basically advanced information processing applied to commercially viable smart systems, which are customized for specialized functions.
Some examples of AAI are Deep Blue, IBM’s computer chess-playing system that beat the then reigning world chess champion in 1997; IBM’s question answering system Watson that beat former winners of the quiz show Jeopardy in 2011; and AlphaGo, DeepMind’s AI-based computer programme that beat the world champion of the board game Go in 2014. Digital assistants such as Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortona, Yahoo’s editorial system Hadoop, and targeted advertising tools employed by online e-commerce portals that learn from customer behavior also fall under the AAI umbrella.
AI needs to be assimilated with applications beyond the fields of consumer goods and IT. The need of the hour is to use AI to solve social developmental problems for a sustainable future. The aim should be to garner the benefits of AI while treading carefully to avoid its potential pitfalls.
Naysayers, largely, see unemployment as one of the biggest negative impacts of AI. As AI advances, machines will become smarter and more adept at doing human jobs. The automation of manual jobs will mean a rise in unemployment levels. In the field of IT, AI can automate many repetitive tasks such as data entry, thus triggering concerns about the future of these jobs. A published survey states that half of the current American jobs will be automated in the next two decades. A deep dive into the field of technology will reveal that, with the current advancements, the automation of many human jobs seems inevitable, albeit not imminent.
Moreover, several credible scientists and researchers have stressed on the unfathomable, catastrophic consequences of AI, if made pervasive. Now, while the possibility of such threats can’t be ruled out, the likelihood of occurrence of extreme events seem far-fetched, and shouldn’t deter us from reaping its benefits at present.
Applied AI Can Boost Governance
From an Indian perspective, AAI could prove to be a boon that could not have come sooner. However, AI in India needs to be applied beyond the private sector to drive innovation and development in the public domain. The time to use AAI in governance is ripe, as a lot of data in government portals today is machine-readable. The use of AAI efficiently could help enhance governance capacity. While governments implement many nationwide developmental schemes, the scale of these initiatives makes it impossible to monitor manually and conventionally, as this would mean a considerable investment of manpower, time and resources that could be put to use elsewhere. Apart from this, other factors such as malpractices, corruption, and inefficient use of allotted resources hinder better governance. Thus, automating some of such processes may prove better.
This can be done through ‘deep learning’, a process that can be used to recognize patterns, images, spoken words and natural languages, and cross-reference the recognized content using high-level abstractions. Computers with AAI capability can sort tens of thousands of images into predefined categories and tell the distinct differences between them. An example of such a specialized AI tool is the Chinese Internet search engine Baidu’s supercomputer Minwa. It used deep learning to identify more than 95.42% of images in a database of a million pictures, surpassing the previous record error rate set by Google (4.8%). Baidu further intends to use Minwa to analyze speech data and written content in both English and Chinese languages.
Similarly, AI can be integrated with public sector applications such as (agricultural) crop insurance schemes, detecting tax fraud, and preventing the misuse of subsidies. Gargantuan populations like those in India or China makes it pertinent to use AI to monitor public-sector concerns as well as solve real-time problems.
It is important for governments to drive the adoption and proliferation of AI through collaborations with universities and start-up incubators, by promoting the development of cloud infrastructure, and by incorporating need-based development in the AI mechanisms.
Applied Artificial Intelligence is definitely going to gain significant ground among enterprises and public-sector applications alike. Its potential to usher in an age of better governance, and ultimately, better overall growth and development cannot be underestimated.
This post first appeared on ETCIO.com.