July 24, 2024

General Studies Paper 3


  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been dominating the headlines for its triumphs, and also fears being expressed by many including some of the best minds in AI. Several leading AI experts and thinkers have been part of different cautionary messages about AI. There is deep concern about AI among many who know it.

Artificial intelligence

  • Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) refers to intelligence that is not limited or narrow. Think of it as human “common sense” but absent in AI systems.
  • Common sense will make a human save his life in a life-threatening situation while a robot may remain unmoved.
  • There are no credible efforts towards building AGI yet.
  • Many experts believe AGI will never be achieved by a machine; others believe it could be in the far future.

Areas of use, limitations and AGI

  • AI systems are capable of exhibiting superhuman performance on specific or “narrow” tasks, which has made it to the news in the field of games like chess and also in biochemistry for protein folding.
  • The performance and utility of AI systems improve as the task is narrowed, making them valuable assistants to humans. Speech recognition, translation, and even identifying common objects such as photographs, are just a few tasks that AI systems tackle today, even exceeding human performance in some instances.
  • Their performance and utility degrade on more “general” or ill-defined tasks. They are weak in integrating inferences across situations based on the common sense humans have.

ChatGPT – AI Tool

  • ChatGPT is a generative AI tool that uses a Large Language Model (LLM) to generate text.
  • LLMs are large artificial neural networks that ingest large amounts of digital text to build a statistical “model”.
  • Several LLMs have been built by Google, Meta, Amazon, and others.
  • ChatGPT’s stunning success in generating flawless paragraphs caught the world’s attention. Writing could now be outsourced to it.
  • Some experts even saw “sparks of AGI” in GPT-4; AGI could emerge from a bigger LLM in the near future.
  • True AGI will be a big deal if and when it arrives. Machines outperform humans in every physical task today and AGI may lead to AI “machines” bettering humans in many intellectual or mental tasks.
  • Bleak scenarios of super-intelligent machines enslaving humans have been imagined. AGI systems could be a superior species created by humans outside of evolution.
  • AGI will indeed be a momentous development that the world must prepare for seriously.

The dangers

  • Superhuman AI: The danger of a super intelligent AI converting humans to slaves.
  • Malicious humans with powerful AI: AI tools are relatively easy to build. Even narrow AI tools can cause serious harm when matched with malicious intent. LLMs can generate believable untruths as fake news and create deep mental anguish leading to self-harm. Public opinion can be manipulated to affect democratic elections. AI tools work globally, taking little cognisance of boundaries and barriers.
  • Highly capable and inscrutable AI: AI systems will continue to improve and will be employed to assist humans. They may end up harming some sections more than others unintentionally, despite the best intentions of their creators.
  • Another worry is about who develops these technologies and how. Most recent advances took place in companies with huge computational, data, and human resources. ChatGPT was developed by OpenAI which began as a non-profit and transformed into a for-profit entity. Other players in the AI game are Google, Meta, Microsoft, and Apple. Commercial entities with no effective public oversight are the centres of action.

India must be prepared

  • Awareness and debate on these issues are largely absent in India.
  • The adoption of AI systems is low in the country, but those used are mostly made in the West.
  • We need systematic evaluation of their efficacy and shortcomings in Indian situations.
  • We need to establish mechanisms of checks and balances before large-scale deployment of AI systems.
  • AI holds tremendous potential in different sectors such as public health, agriculture, transportation and governance.
  • As we exploit India’s advantages in them, we need more discussions to make AI systems responsible, fair, and just to our society.
  • The European Union is on the verge of enacting an AI Act that proposes regulations based on a stratification of potential risks.
  • India needs a framework for itself, keeping in mind that regulations have been heavy-handed as well as lax in the past.


  • Everything that affects humans significantly needs public oversight or regulation. AI systems can have a serious, long-lasting negative impact on individuals. Yet, they can be deployed on mass scale instantly with no oversight.
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