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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS: A new global standard for AI ethics

 Source: The Hindu

  • Prelims: Science and technology, Artificial intelligence(AI), UNESCO etc
  • Mains GS Paper III: Significance of technology for India, AI, indigenisation of technology and development of new technology.


  • AI algorithms can also be partially credited for the rapidity with which vaccines were developed to tackle COVID-19.
  • The algorithm scrunched up complex data from clinical trials being undertaken in all corners of the world, creating global collabo-rations that could not have been imagined even a decade ago.
  • National Strategy on Artificial Intelligence released by NITI Aayog in 2018 highlights the massive potential of AI in solving complex social challenges faced by Indian citizens across areas such as agriculture, health, and edu-cation
  • In addition to the significant economic returns that AI-related technologies are already creating.




  Artificial intelligence(AI):

  • It is a branch of computer science dealing with the simulation of intelligent behavior in computers.
  • It describes the action of machines accomplishing tasks that have historically required human intelligence.
  • It includes technologies like machine learning, pattern recognition, big data, neural networks, self algorithms etc.
  • The origin of the concept can be traced back to Greek mythology, although it is only during modern history when stored program electronic computers were developed.
  • g: Facebook’s facial recognition software which identifies faces in the photos we post, the voice recognition software that translates commands we give to Alexa, etc are some of the examples of AI already around us.


Current Affairs


A Complex Technology:

  • AI involves complex things such as feeding a particular data into the machine and making it react as per the different situations.
  • It is basically about creating self-learning patterns where the machine can give answers to the never answered questions like a human would ever do.


How intelligent are AI’s?

  • To test the intelligence of machines Alan Turning devised a practical solution. Place a computer in a closed room and a human in another. If an interrogator interacting with the machine and the human cannot discriminate between them, then Turing said that the computer should be construed as ‘intelligent’.
  • Counter View:
    A baby learns a language from close interaction with caregivers and not by acquiring a massive amount of language data. Moreover, whether intelligence is the same as sentience is questionable.


Is technology dangerous?

  • Unethical AI perpetuating historical bias and echoing hate speech may cause real dangers to society.
  • g: If AI is to select candidates for any supervisory role then Women and marginalized communities hardly get in as AI would analyze centuries-old data, which would exclude these sections as they were discriminated against during that time.


Benefits of AI:

  • In Policing: India still has conventional policing. AI based products open a new window of opportunity to do predictive policing in India. With the help of AI, one can predict the pattern of crime, analyze a lot of CCTV footage which are available across the country to identify suspects.
  • Government is digitizing all the records, especially the crime records, putting it into one single place called CCTNS where all the data including the image, biometrics, or the criminal history of a convict or suspect is available.
  • In Agriculture: It has many uses, for example, it can help sense one how much water the crop needs.
  • For solving complex issues like efficient utilization of available resources.
  • Analyzing the Data: The AI technology helps in analyzing data and thus can improve the efficiency of the systems like power management in cars, mobile devices, weather predictions, video and image analysis.


Issues with AI:

  • AI often isn’t representative of the diversity of our societies, producing outcomes that can be said to be biased or discrimi-natory.
  • There are problems emerging in facial recognition technologies,which are used to access our phones,bank accounts and apartments, and are increasingly employed by law enforcement authorities, in identifying women and darker-skinned people.
  • While India and China together constitute approximately a third of the world’s population, Google Brain estimated that they form just 3% of images used inImageNet, a widely used dataset.
  • The right to privacy is under threat, obviously considering the possibility of unauthorized access to one’s online activity data. But even in the case of an offline user — somebody who has deliberately decided to stay ‘disconnected’ —  the right to privacy is still under threat, like a disconnected user moving through a ‘smart city’.
  • Indeed, if the business model of how these technologies are developed does not change to place human interests first, inequalities will grow.


Ethical Issues with AI:



Steps taken to resolve issues:

  • India has made great strides in the development of responsible and ethical AI governance, starting with NITIAayog’s #AIForAll campaign to the many corporate strategies that have been adopted to ensure that AI is developed with common, humanistic values at its core.
  • 193 countries reached an agreement at UNESCO on how AI should be designed and used by governments and tech companies:
    • It aims to fundamentally shift the balance of power between people, and the businesses and governments developing AI.
    • Countries which are members of UNESCO have agreed to implement this recommendation by enacting actions to regulate the entire AI system life cycle, ranging from research, design and development to deployment and use.
    • It establishes the need to keep control over data in the hands of users, allowing them to access and delete information as needed.
    • It also calls on member states to ensure that appropriate safeguards schemes are devised for the processing of sensitive data and effective accountability, and redress mechanisms are provided in the event of harm.
  • In a number of countries, the principles of the recommendation are already being used in AI regulation and policy, demonstrating their practical viability. Finland provides an example of good practice in this regard,with its 2017 AI Strategy.
  • To accompany countries in the realization of the full potential of AI and with the aim of building the institutional capacity of countries and all the relevant stakeholders, UNESCO is in the process of developing tools to help them assess their readiness in the implementation of the Recommendation and identify, monitor and assess the benefits, concerns and risks of AI system.
  • Additionally, the broader socio-cultural impacts of AI-related technologies are also addressed, with the Recommendation taking a strong stance that AI systems should not be used for:
    • Social scoring or mass surveillance purposes
    • Particular attention must be paid to the psycho-logical and cognitive impact that these systems can have on children and young people
    • Member states should invest in and promote not only digital, media and information literacy skills, but also socio-emotional and AI ethics skills to strengthen critical thinking and competencies in the digital era.


India and AI:

  • According to a Canada based company’s report, Global AI Report 2019, India stood at the ninth position in terms of the number of AI specialists working in the field.
  • The US, China and the UK topped the list.
  • India, on the contrary, lacks the opportunities in formal education in data science but is slowly trying to encourage the adoption of AI in educational institutes.
  • Starting this year, the CBSE has AI as an elective subject for its ninth grade classes.
  • IIT Hyderabad has launched a full fledged Bachelor of Technology (B Tech) program in AI becoming the first Indian educational institution to do so.
  • It is also most likely the third educational institute in the world after Carnegie Mellon University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to have a full fledged B Tech program on AI.
  • IIIT Hyderabad is another educational institute that introduced popular executive programs on AI and machine learning and blockchain and distributed ledger technologies.
  • Defense forces of India are now venturing into the products and technologies which will aid defense measures using the AI and technologies.
  • In India, corporates have started collaborating with academia on AI. IBM’s Blue project is an example.
  • There are many startups in the country which are doing great work in image analytics, data analytics, predictive intelligence etc.
  • It is estimated that AI will add 957 billion dollars to India’s GDP by the year 2035 boosting India’s annual growth by 1.3% points.


United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO):

●    It is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN). It seeks to build peace through international cooperation in Education, the Sciences and Culture.

●    It is also a member of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group (UNSDG), a coalition of UN agencies and organizations aimed at fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

●    UNESCO’s Headquarters are located in Paris and the Organization has more than 50 field offices around the world.

●    It has 193 Members and 11 Associate Members (As of April 2020) and is governed by the General Conference and the Executive Board.

●    Three UNESCO member states are not UN members: Cook Islands, Niue, and Palestine.

●    While three UN member states (Israel, Liechtenstein, United States) are not UNESCO members.


●    Attaining quality education for all and lifelong learning

●    Mobilizing science knowledge and policy for sustainable development

●    Addressing emerging social and ethical challenges

●    Fostering cultural diversity, intercultural dialogue and a culture of peace

●    Building inclusive knowledge societies through information and communication

●    Focuses on global priority areas – “Africa” and “Gender Equality”.



Way Forward

  • To ensure that the full potential of these technologies is reached, the right incentives for ethical AI governance need to be established in national and subnational policy.
  • The governments must use affirmative action to make sure that women and minority groups are fairly represented on AI design teams. This could take the form of quota systems that ensure that these teams are diverse or the form of dedicated funds from their public budgets to support such inclusion programmes.
  • With this agreement, confidence of putting AI to work where it can have the most impact: hunger, environmental crises, inequalities and pandemics, optimistic of having built the momentum for real change.



UNESCO’s global agreement on the ethics of AI can guide governments and companies to voluntarily develop and deploy AI technologies that conform with the commonly agreed principles. Discuss.

(200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)