Sunday, March 20, 2016

India's Ignorance Towards AI

South Korea broadcasted the AlphaGo vs Lee Sedol nationwide. What happened after the match is now being called the AlphaGo Shock. The machine won 4-1 in a breathtaking battle, often making moves previously unseen in the professional world of competitive Go.

After DeepBlue beat Kasparov in 1997, Go was the game everyone looked up to as the one thing humans were better at. This arose from the astounding complexity of the game. A chess board is an 8x8 grid, a Go board is a 19x19 grid. This, along with the rules of the games makes Go a much more complex game.

As of March 17 2016, South Korea has declared that it will introduce 1 Trillion Won into AI research over the next five years. Go has been a powerful game in the South Korean community since a long time.

The 4-1 game was followed by a spate of newspaper headlines worrying that South Korea was falling behind in a crucial growth industry.

In all this time, the Indian government is yet to publicly embrace AI. We are so blissfully ignorant that not even one of our headlines showed this news. As a Machine Learning student, I understand the implications this might have for India.

While we crown ourselves with titles like "Tech Giant" and so on, the world gleefully moves on to bigger things. We have become the telephone operators of the world while they have moved on to better things.

While the world measures Internet speed in MBps we are still on Mbps (the difference in B and b is significant in case you did not know). While the world is using computers to find significant information and insights from data, we are literally still accounting with pencil paper systems.

While this is not entirely the government's fault a large share is theirs to take. The lack of computer science jobs in the central government is a major drawback. Computer science is no longer a "helper" science used to aid other "real" sciences. It is a titan in it's own right.

The government's refusal to look at this field with an equal eye will harm us in the long run. Take Modi's God-like election victory. That is what Machine Learning does. Modi has seen the power of Machine Learning, yet refuses to acknowledge the work it could do for India.

I am almost inclined to say that like the Lords of old looking at Babbage's difference engine, all Modi can think of is how to use it. To truly understand it's potential we need someone who understands the machine. Someone like Ada of Lovelace.

If India does not put centralized effort into the field of AI, it will result in a handicap which will be impossible to overcome. All of the major data collecting companies like Google, Facebook are not India based, hence crippling the nation with respect to data collection. One might even argue that this has already happened.

The lack of government interest in research as shown by their archaic recruitment procedures for research scholars will only harm this nation.

All of this will happen not because of someone's action, rather because of inaction. Technically ignorant people have been making decisions for technology based on advisers. We require people who understand the technology.

After all is done and dusted, I expect nothing to happen. I expect that India will take pride in it's inertia as it always has and at some point in the future people like us who understand what has happened will be forced to leave this nation we love so much.

All because of the government's ignorance towards AI.