Anthony Bourdain was a celebrity chef, author, travel documentarian who made a number of programmes on international cuisine, culture and the human condition. He died in 2018, and a documentary about Bourdain called ‘roadrunner’ was released recently. There are many celebrities out there like Anthony Bourdain having their documentaries, but why is he the centre of discussion today?
He is the centre of discussion today because of ethics and artificial intelligence.
The documentary revealed that it is the voice of the late Anthony Bourdain used to narrate the entire movie. The filmmakers achieved this phenomenal feat by using artificial intelligence to clone Bourdain‘s voice. They stitched together audio clips of Bourdain from different sources. Morgan Neville stated that they have only faked bits (three lines to be specific) of a letter he wrote to his girlfriend. Other than that, it is late Anthony Bourdain‘s voice narrating his documentary.
The revelation has gathered appraisals and criticisms. Some are amazed at what artificial intelligence and technology can do, giving voice to the dead. Others are concerned over Bourdain’s voice being faked. Criticisms are raised because Antony was not consented before stitching his voice via AI. The critics are unsure if Antony would have consented to voice stitching if he was alive. Critics are not concerned whether the lines of the letter written to his girlfriend are true or not. They are concerned about the ethical practices of technology.
The director was even threatened with setting up a documentary ethics panel to debate the issue. Few critics point towards a lack of transparency. It is not a question of documentary ethics in cinema, but it is a question of truth that is much more than the truth of accountants. If director Neville didn’t reveal the truth behind the voice, no one would have known that it isn’t Antony Bourdain. This revelation raises concerns about how easily people are misled with the help of artificial intelligence.
The world is grappling with fake news, fake information and doctored facts, and artificial intelligence adds fuel to the fire. The terms fact-checkers, phoney news, defeats areroutine words. The easy misleading is the issue at hand, which needs to be addressed before it becomes dangerous. People are dependent on technology, and mobile phones are inseparable gadgets. A person sees his phone the first thing in the morning when he wakes up and the last thing at night before he goes to sleep.
The human brain is exceedingly dependent on technology to do menial jobs and slowly creating software to do their complex work. Innovation is an essential element in human civilisation because it helps us in adoption and progress. Artificial intelligence helps us in online shopping and advertising, web search, digital personal assistants, machine translations, smart homes, cities and infrastructure, cybersecurity, automobiles, artificial intelligence fighting COVID-19, fighting this information, health and healthcare, transport, agriculture, robotics etc.
Artificial intelligence is also helping us achieve all the 17 sustainable development goals SDG. But increased dependence on software can pull us back to Middle Ages. Augmented reality, virtual reality, machine learning, the internet of things, artificial intelligence can become a threat. Pop culture has given us enough references and predictions about how things can go down. Movies like The Matrix, The Terminator, Blade Runner, Interstellar, Metropolis, Transformers, 2001: ASpace Odyssey, Robot and Frank et cetra provide us with enough imagined possibilities.
What are the challenges posed by disruptive technologies?
Artificial intelligence feed on data provided by humans. The algorithm is consciously and unconsciously powered by humans fed data and is often used to change election results. Artificial intelligence collects an insane amount of data which is misused at times. The companies which collect data exchange it without users consent, thereby hurting privacy. The data collected is used to create demographic profiles of people according to which products, promotions, suggestions, services etc are advertised.
In the above case, Bourdain’s voice was used without his consent. This demographic profile discriminates on the grounds of religion, race, ethnicity, caste, class, gender, sexual orientation et cetera. Recent antitrust cases and allegations against big tech companies like Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook confirm that artificial intelligence is misused.
Artificial intelligence is creating new inequalities as it will displace the workforce. It will increase the gap between the developed and developing worlds. Robots and machine learning are doing tasks that are carried out by low-income countries. Self-service kiosks replace cashiers, fruit packing robots substitute field workers, apps like Amazon and Flipkart reduce the job of sales persons etc. Technology is not resisted; what is resisted is the loss of employment. There are no clear policies about re-skilling displaced workers.
Given the Covid 19 pandemic, many people are rendered jobless. Displacement of jobs due to artificial intelligence and robots will cripple the already struggling middle class. The data centres consume a lot of energy to cool IT equipment which leaves vast carbon footprints. To reduce heating and energy consumption, data centres are now moving to cooler places like Siberia. Countries are passing stricter regulations so that data is stored on domestic servers. Reducing the environmental impact and moving to Siberia contradicts such laws.
Expertise and knowledge of artificial intelligence have to be outsourced because only 4% of Indian AI professionals have worked on emerging technologies. The government has to increase PhD scholars to study emerging technologies to prevent foreign dominance. The government has to provide fast working internet and continuous power supply across India to harbour artificial intelligence and related services. Work from home has become a nuisance due to constant power cuts and slow internet.
India has miles to go when it comes to providing good quality infrastructure. Apart from the lack of professionals industries, government agencies do not use artificial intelligence in working. Courses about artificial intelligence, IoT have to be taught in the syllabus to spread awareness. Facebook, Google, et cetera are ‘hegemons’ of disruptive technologies. A new player can’t swim in this sea. The hegemony poses huge entry barriers.
What has India done – the Niti Aayog report?
Technology is essential, but regulation is the need of the hour. An ecosystem has to be established so that business is done ethically, without harming privacy and undermining security protocols. A balance has to be struck between AI governance and AI promotion for the public good. Companies, employees and governments need to come to the negotiating table to agree on common guiding principles and their application.
National cybersecurity policy NCSP 2013 talks about sensitisation of consumers, employees and citizens on cybersecurity. It aims to educate people about threats, best practices and how to avoid security breaches. Niti Aayog’s National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence has focused on five sectors to use artificial intelligence, which will benefit society the most. Those five sectors are healthcare, agriculture, education, smart mobility and transportation and smart cities.
Maximum Indians are engaged in agriculture and related activities which does not provide enough money hence need of AI. Given the Covid 19 pandemic, healthcare, transportation, housing, and education are core sectors that need attention. Niti Aayog‘s report for Responsible AI for All underlines the need for an ecosystem that motivates research and innovations in artificial intelligence.
The ecosystem has to solve society’s problems and provide India bargaining power by scaling these solutions globally. Artificial intelligence is at a nascent stage in India. Frameworks and guidelines have to be established for responsible management. All the while, the government has to ensure principles of equality, privacy and security, transparency and accountability for ethical practice.