Artificial Intelligence

Cars, refrigerators and mobile phones have all become "smart". A deeper change is on the anvil. The development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) will lead to the computers taking away large chunks of repetitive mental works such as driving cars and undertaking legal research.

The Task Force formed recently by the Modi government intends to focus on the impact of AI on established economic activities such as manufacturing, healthcare, agriculture and food processing, education and retail. Chair of the Task Force Professor Kamakoti of IIT Madras said that the focus will be on how Al will impact the people. For one thing India's condition is more precarious given the nation is adding about one million workers to workforce every month. The challenge before the country is not only to provide jobs for those who are displaced by AI, but also to provide for the large numbers of new workers entering the work force every month.

Legal research is now being done by computers. The computer checks all the judgments and identifies the few that are relevant for the particular problem faced by the client. This eliminates the need for a lawyer poring through legal indexes, reading the judgments and making a brief. The use of Al reduces the cost of legal research. This reduction in cost would make litigation cheaper and enable larger number of people to file cases. More numbers of advocates and judges will be required to handle this increase in the numbers of cases. The numbers of jobs of the judges and lawyers would therefore increase. There will be direct reduction of jobs in legal research while there will be an indirect increase in the number of jobs. It is difficult to forecast the net impact of these changes. But one cannot sit still even if AI leads to the generation of certain numbers of jobs because India needs to create large numbers of jobs for the new entrants into the job market.

The way forward is to list and expand those jobs that are not likely to be taken over by computers. The fundamental difference in a human being and a computer is that the computer is a machine that cannot understand or feel emotions. Thus experts commissioned by the Washington Post newspaper suggested that workers of the future will have to "cultivate... creativity, collaborative activity, abstract and systems thinking, complex communication..., the ability to thrive in diverse environments..., to efficiently network, manage public relations, display intercultural sensitivity... and generally... (have) 'social' and 'emotional' intelligence." It seems that there will be a revival of the arts. Computers can take over the tasks of sifting through large amounts of legal data but they would barely be able to understand whether the infant is crying for milk or for the lack of sleep.

There is no way that one can prevent the intrusion of computers into the job space and the loss of a number of present jobs. That will happen. The task is to proactively identify the areas where new jobs will be created and train the youth to capture those opportunities as they arise.

The urgent need is to redesign the education system. The government must make knowledge of English, another foreign language and computers compulsory at the Secondary School level. Also the authorities must push emotion-heavy subjects like painting, music, psychology, and sociology since these subjects are likely to remain beyond the reach of the computers.

Vol. 50, No.16, Oct 22 - 28, 2017