AI: The human aspect

AI: The human aspect

Technology is something that needs to help humankind, if not all animal-kind, as a whole.

Mohit Ahuja

Everyone is talking about AI; how it can lead to better solutions and cost-effective ones at that. While we have seen some marvelous results of the magic that AI can perform across automated and non-automated functions, there is one troubling aspect about the deployment of this new genie in our hands.

This one aspect is the following fact: no one technology has ever threatened the livelihoods of human resources as this one. Earlier this month we had a top IT industry figure calling out the fact that all call-center resources could be redundant in the future as Chatbots would reach an almost ‘human-like’ level in intelligent responses very soon. This would lead to imminent huge numbers of lay-offs. Earlier in the year, we had the whole Hollywood crew and actors up in arms against what big studios planned to do with AI, at cost to all writers and small actors. The latter won, albeit in an elongated stand-off.

The case for cost-cutting is simple and understandable. In advertising, for example, expensive and expansive shoots can sometimes be done away with by a simple sleight of hand using AI. A lot of tools are available nowadays which help put up backgrounds, locations etc., in any image or even create fresh images. We can now do things in layouts and copy which were hard to do earlier. Communication thus can look and read well and nice and good.

The moot point though simply is this: Till now, tech had almost always emerged as a means of democratisation. You see people across social strata using phones as a means to enhance convenience, value and ROI. The PC, likewise, was a big equalizer. AI on the other hand, at least right now, is seen as a threat. It is seen as a device in the hands of big capital to replace the lower rungs of real human intelligence. Unlike the phone or the PC, AI is being looked at as a cost-reduction tool. This is not wrong in itself; it is just that this should not be the only aim. Tech cannot and should not have a side-effect like this.

Where does this leave a country like India which had driven into the IT boom globally with great expertise at low cost as a key USP? Would replacing people with bots help out in a more tech-equal world? Yes, we can surely look at ourselves as innovators in creating newer algorithms and creating more wonders to get to the next big frontiers of AI; but that is a case of sharpening the axe continuously.

Technology is something that needs to help humankind, if not all animal-kind, as a whole. For it to be treated as a tool which capitalists wield to their own interests, would be to diminish the ideals that science and tech have stood for. We must see how AI can better help what humans can do and not replace what humans can do. This, or any other technology, should never emerge as something that widens the economic divide between the top and the bottom. In fact, all tech should bridge these increasing gaps in an ideal world.

PS: One joke doing the rounds is that one would have rather thought that AI took over (from humans) manual labor like cleaning and washing rather than pleasurable work like painting and creating.

The article has been authored by GOZOOP Group president Mohit Ahuja.