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India and AI: To avoid the Mistakes from the Nuclear Era

  • Published
    6th Dec, 2023
Context

India while going for nuclear weapons, committed some missteps. The same should be avoided as India goes big on AI.

Background
  • Reflecting on India's historical missteps in nuclear weapons development during the 1970s, it is evident that a similar miscalculation in the realm of Artificial Intelligence (AI) could prove detrimental to the nation.
  • Unlike the disarmament idealism that influenced India's nuclear stance, the challenges posed by AI demand a more nuanced and strategic approach.

AI and Nuclear Parallels

  • While nuclear and AI technologies differ significantly, parallels can be drawn in their potential global impact.
  • The nuclear revolution, triggered by the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, prompted efforts to manage threats to humanity.
  • Similarly, the AI revolution, with its potential to reshape economies, societies, and politics, necessitates international collaboration to establish norms and institutions.

Current Geopolitical Landscape

  • The dynamics of AI governance today mirrorchallenges faced in the nuclear age.
  • The race for AI dominance between major powers, especially the U.S. and China, echoes the Cold War competition in nuclear capabilities.
  • Efforts to regulate military AI uses and calls for arms control agreements are reminiscent of past attempts to manage nuclear weapons.

Lessons from India's Nuclear History

  • Drawing from India's nuclear journey, three lessons emerge.
  • Firstly, the era of disarmament idealism should be left behind.
  • India's historical rhetoric on the "time-bound elimination of nuclear weapons" hindered pragmatic thinking.
  • In the AI domain, India cannot afford complacency and must proactively engage in shaping its future.

Building Partnerships

  • The importance of building on current momentum in partnerships, particularly with the U.S., is underscored.
  • India's historical reluctance, as seen in missed opportunities post the 2005 civil nuclear deal, should not be repeated.
  • Collaborations with the U.S. and the West on critical technologies, including AI, must be prioritized for India's global positioning.

Avoiding Exceptionalism

  • The temptation to pursue an "Indian way" in technological development should be resisted.
  • Embracing India's exceptionalism in AI may impede international cooperation.
  • The private sector's role is pivotal, as seen in the West's leadership in AI research and development.
  • India's recent initiatives to open up the science and technology sector are positive steps, but urgent and extensive reforms are required.

In conclusion, India stands at a critical juncture in shaping its AI trajectory. Learning from the mistakes of the past, especially in nuclear pursuits, is imperative. Pragmatic policies, strategic partnerships, and a proactive role for the private sector will be instrumental in ensuring India's success in the global AI landscape.

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