Depending on whom you're listening to, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is either a threat that will turn on its creators or is the saviour of humankind in the years to come. As with most things, the truth lies somewhere in the middle of these two options - AI is a technology that will act within its capacity to perform the functions that it is given. Even within the group of people who don't believe that AI will turn violent, many consider AI, with its potential to do repetitive or time-intensive work swiftly and accurately, as a threat to the global job market. If robots do the jobs of humans, what will humans do, they ask. The answer to that is simple - they will do the other jobs that robots can't.

In the last decade or so, swift advances in Machine Learning and Deep Learning technologies have led to AI making a quantum leap in its capacity to perform functions. AI can now decode natural language, translate in real-time, and even engage in limited conversation with human beings. It won't be long before it is capable of passing the Turing test absolutely. The increasing capacity of AI to learn and make decisions added to its existing abilities to work without rest and error-free would make it an ideal choice for doing the kind of manual labour that many are still are engaged in doing today.

What AI has shown little or no capacity to engage in thus far is creativity and innovation. It is unlikely to develop a sense of humour and probably would require centuries of development before it can approach the concept of thinking laterally and outside the box. AI will be much better suited to replace human beings in mass manufacturing, bringing greater synergy and efficiency into that domain than before. Doing so would lower the costs of manufactured goods, increase consumption, and raise the profits of such companies. This would increase these companies' productivity, and make them need more humans in marketing. Which is why certain research firms have indicated that AI will create more jobs than it eliminates, stating that by 2020, AI will generate 2.3 million jobs worldwide.

New avenues

A survey of 1,000 global organisations which deployed AI-based systems found that 80% of the surveyed firms had added more jobs, while two-thirds of the respondents indicated that there had been no reduction in jobs attributable to AI. For the most part, AI is being used to enhance and enable human employees to remove redundant mechanical and record-keeping aspects of their work, freeing them up and enabling them to be more productive.

The spike in demand for AI-proficient programmers is all the more remarkable because there is a dearth of qualified candidates capable of taking up these positions. According to a leading job portal, there is currently a ratio of 2.3 available roles for every suitable candidate. Applications of AI would also create a massive pool of opportunities.

 Even in other industries, AI will create greater productivity that would enhance employment, not curtail it. There will be a greater need for humans who specialise in abstract thinking, creative tasks, and problem-solving, which will lead to job growth in these areas.

While these new jobs will be more lucrative than the ones that AI will take up, they will require substantial reskilling of the existing workforce. Hence, in the field of AI, it is important to focus more on improving the skills of the workforce, than be worried about the growing technology.

We should actively ask how we can make ourselves more productive and less mechanical in our work, and find ways to add problem-solving and analytical skills. Picking up AI programming would be a great choice, as this is easier to learn than one would imagine. So, what are you waiting for?

(The author is managing director - India, Udacity)

Let the Truth be known. If you read VB and like VB, please be a VB Supporter and Help us deliver the Truth to one and all.



This report was first published in thewire.in and has been posted here without any alterations or editing. To read the original report, CLICK HERE

New Delhi: Over 650 members of civil society have demanded a stop to the ‘vendetta politics’ against Harsh Mander and other activists, adding that the Centre has been “misusing” regulatory institutions and laws like the Foreign Contributions (Regulation) Act (FCRA) to harass civil society institutions.

The statement comes after a case was registered under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act over alleged violations by two shelter homes in South Delhi which were established by the Centre for Equity Studies (CES), an NGO that Mander is associated with.

In the statement, the signatories said that the Centre’s targeting of Mander, a former IAS officer, and the CES is a continuation of the “politics of vendetta” and is symptomatic of how “those who dissent are being dealt with in India today”.

“The egregious attacks on the Centre for Equity Studies ranging from wild accusations of sexual misconduct in two of the children’s homes run by the organisation to the fishing expedition being undertaken by the Economic Offences Wing of Delhi Police are but two examples of the recent attacks on Harsh Mander and the institutions associated with him,” the statement says.

Condemning “the attacks on Harsh Mander and the Centre for Equity Studies”, the signatories demanded an end to “vendetta politics” and that regulatory institutions and laws should not be “misused” to harass civil society institutions. “Allow democratic spaces for civil society to operate and give due recognition of their role in nation-building,” the added.

The full statement, along with the list of signatories, has been reproduced below.

Civil Society statement for Harsh Mander/Centre for Equity Studies

Stop vendetta politics against civil society and persecution of citizens associated with civil society

One of the most disturbing trends in India in the recent years, along with the decline in Constitutional values and shrinking space for civil society, is the demonisation and persecution of activists and organisations. The active hounding of Harsh Mander, a former bureaucrat and one of the most respected names in civil society, and the institutions he is associated with like the Centre for Equity Studies (CES) is the most recent example of the vendetta politics of the government.

An officer of the Indian Administrative Service, Harsh Mander quit the civil service in 2002 in the wake of the Gujarat riots and has since then been a part of significant civil society initiatives. He has served as the head of ActionAid India, co-founder of the Centre for Equity Studies, co-founder of Karwan-e-Mohabbat – an initiative to promote love and communal harmony, and was member of the National Advisory Council chaired by the Chairperson of the UPA. His close association with people’s movements including the Narmada Bachao Andolan and the National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information (NCPRI) amongst others, gave him a unique perspective on social changes processes that is rare amongst social activists. Throughout his career, Harsh Mander’s central concerns have been the most marginalised people in India – the urban homeless, leprosy patients, Dalits and Muslims, and children living on the streets.

It is this aspect of his work that encapsulated the activities of the Centre for Equity Studies since it was founded more than two decades ago. Over the years, CES has emerged as one of the leading pro-poor policy institutions, bridging grassroots actions with constructive engagement on social policy. Till 2014, CES ran a network of 51 children’s homes across the country covering hundreds of children and was responsible for the Central Government’s guidelines on the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan for street children. CES brings out the annual India Exclusion Report which has emerged as one of the most authoritative report on social exclusion covering the most marginalised communities in the country. Between 2004 and 2014, CES was part of many of the processes for landmark rights-based legislations like the National Food Security Act and the Right to Information Act.

That the current regime has now chosen to target a distinguished civil society organisation like CES in the continuing politics of vendetta to silence Harsh Mander is symptomatic of how those who dissent are being dealt with in India today. The egregious attacks on the Centre for Equity Studies ranging from wild accusations of sexual misconduct in two of the children’s homes run by the organisation to the fishing expedition being undertaken by the Economics Offences Wing of Delhi Police are but two examples of the recent attacks on Harsh Mander and the institutions associated with him.

As civil society leaders representing a very wide range of constituencies and work across the country, we unequivocally condemn the attacks on Harsh Mander and the Centre for Equity Studies and demand:

  1. An end to vendetta politics towards Harsh Mander and the Centre for Equity Studies
  2. Stop misusing regulatory institutions and laws like the FCRA to harass Civil Society institutions
  3. Allow democratic spaces for civil society to operate and give due recognition of their role in nation building