The only way to grow out­put to­day is to part­ner with ma­chines

ASHUTOSH SHARMA, sec­re­tary, Depart­ment of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy

Hindustan Times (Gurgaon) - - Nation -

In his lat­est Mann ki Baat, PM Naren­dra Modi touted Ar­ti­fi­cial In­tel­li­gence (AI) as a tech­nol­ogy that can be “har­nessed to bet­ter the lives of the un­der­priv­i­leged, the marginalised and the needy.”

In this year’s bud­get, the gov­ern­ment dou­bled the al­lo­ca­tion for the Dig­i­tal In­dia ini­tia­tive in part to sup­port the cy­ber phys­i­cal sys­tems mis­sion. Ashutosh Sharma, sec­re­tary, depart­ment of sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy, spoke to

Malavika Vyawa­hare to ex­plain what an AI rev­o­lu­tion means for In­dia. Ex­cerpts:

What is AI?

AI is the fu­ture of mankind. Ma­chine learn­ing has two as­pects; anal­y­sis and de­ci­sion mak­ing. The ma­chine has to have ac­cess to all kinds of data, it has to choose what is most rel­e­vant and and ar­rive at de­ci­sions.

This in­volves hav­ing ac­cess to data and also com­mu­ni­ca­tion. The next gen­er­a­tion of com­mu­ni­ca­tions 5G is rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent from 4G be­cause it is cater­ing to not just peo­ple-to- peo­ple com­mu­ni­ca­tion but also peo­ple-toma­chine and ma­chine-to-ma­chine com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

Once you have made a de­ci­sion, it has to have an ac­tion arm. If there is a road clean­ing ro­bot. If it gets data that some stretch is dirty, it can go there and clean with­out hu­man in­ter­ven­tion. I call it a cy­ber phys­i­cal sys­tem.

What is driv­ing the rev­o­lu­tion?

If you look at coun­tries that are eco­nom­i­cally ad­vanced, they have the in­verse prob­lem (than In­dia) . They do not have too many young en­er­getic peo­ple, so the prob­lem for them is how do you grow? Only way is us­ing AI. Our prob­lem is how do we de­ploy AI to grow fur­ther. Some jobs will dis­ap­pear; jobs that are repet­i­tive will dis­ap­pear. The only way to grow out­put to­day is by part­ner­ing with ma­chines that not only do the job of man­u­fac­tur­ing but also de­cide what is to be man­u­fac­tured, where the de­mand is.

What kinds of in­dus­tries will be im­pacted first?

It is al­ready be­ing done in the fi­nan­cial sec­tor.The IT in­dus­try is un­der­go­ing a trans­for­ma­tion in that di­rec­tion. It has been shown that ma­chines can pre­dict as well as the top ra­di­ol­o­gists. We do not have enough ra­di­ol­o­gists. Here you are cre­at­ing a new op­por­tu­nity, you are now able to serve a pop­u­la­tion that was not served. That is the op­por­tu­nity for coun­tries like In­dia.

De­liv­ery of ed­u­ca­tion is a good ex­am­ple. Ed­u­ca­tion is not ef­fec­tive and peo­ple are not there. We can have AI teach­ers.

But wouldn’t that close the door for peo­ple get­ting jobs as teach­ers?

We will have to rein­vent the role of teach­ers. So we have teach­ers that fo­cus on dif­fer­ent as­pects, things that re­quire a hu­man touch.

So we are poised to be­come big con­sumers of AI tech­nol­ogy. What about pro­duc­ing it?

Even as­sum­ing that you are not pro­duc­ing as much of AI in ma­chines here, it does not mean it would not con­tribute to our eco­nomic growth. We should de­velop more AI, man­u­fac­ture ma­chines that use AI, but also de­ploy it. Com­pa­nies that do not lo­calise their prod­ucts don’t do as well. We need ad­vances in fun­da­men­tal AI but we also need that in tai­lored ap­pli­ca­tions.

What are we do­ing in In­dia to em­brace AI?

The mis­sion on cy­ber phys­i­cal sys­tems will be launched next fi­nan­cial year. We have made a mod­est be­gin­ning. We have devoted about ~100 crore this year. This needs to be scaled up. There are 3 as­pects: one is the AI layer that is dig­i­tal. The sec­ond layer is phys­i­cal, like ma­chines and sen­sors and the third is do­mains. We will de­velop cen­tres of ex­cel­lence. Also, de­vel­op­ing hu­man re­sources at dif­fer­ent lev­elsin high schools, the polytech­nic in­sti­tutes, in ad­vanced re­search in­sti­tutes — they can work on tech­nolo­gies that can be taken to the mar­ket.

Ashutosh Sharma

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