Nuclear Weapons and Artificial Intelligence


    Syllabus: GS2/ Government Policies & Interventions, GS3/ Nuclear Technology

    In Context

    • All current discussions on the geopolitics of Artificial Intelligence inevitably recall the nuclear experience. 
    Artificial intelligence
    – It is the science and engineering of making intelligent machines, especially intelligent computer programs. 
    – It is related to the similar task of using computers to understand human intelligence, but AI does not have to confine itself to biologically observable methods.
    – AI would not replace people but create new opportunities in various fields. 
    – It works on data, and if we could train our machines, it could do wonders for us in milliseconds by automating processes. 
    – AI is creating new opportunities which could not be achieved by traditional technology.

    Relatability of AI development with Nuclear Power

    • Although nuclear and AI are very different, there are similarities too. 
    • Role of Consequences:
      • The nuclear revolution was revealed to the world by the use of atomic bombs against Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.
        • The enormous destructive power and its horrendous consequences compelled statesmen and scientists to consider ways to limit the threats to the survival of humanity in the nuclear age. 
      • The AI revolution threatens an even bigger catastrophe — machines taking over from humanity and enslaving them.
        • The broader impact of the AI revolution is likely to be far more sweeping. 
    • Promise to transform:
      • While nuclear technology never lived up to its economic promise of “delivering electricity too cheap to meter”, AI promises to transform the economy, society and polity in fundamental ways.
    • Challenge of governance:
      • Many of the issues that animate AI governance today are similar to those the world faced at the dawn of the nuclear age. 
      • These challenges include:
        • Managing the impact of this new technology on geopolitical rivalry among the great powers, 
        • Erecting a firewall between the use and abuse of these technologies and 
        • Creating international norms and institutions to govern its use. 
    • Call for a ‘control’:
      • As in the nuclear age, many today demand a ban on military uses of AI or at least a “freeze” on research and development until there is a better assessment of the technology at hand.
      • Like in the nuclear era, there is growing interest in promoting “arms control” agreements between the great powers. 
    • Creation of a bipolar world:
      • If the US and the Soviet Union — the superpowers of the post-War world — dominated the discourse on nuclear weapons, Washington and Beijing do the same in the AI arena today. 
      • It is no surprise that US-China agreements on AI are viewed as critical for the management of the new technological revolution
    • Regulation of AI:
      • There is talk of international norms to manage the potential negative consequences of the AI revolution.
        • One such initiative is the GPAI or the Global Partnership for Artificial Intelligence which has 28 members.
        • India is hosting the Global Partnership for Artificial Intelligence (GPAI) summit in Delhi.
      • Some have proposed the setting up of an “International Agency for Artificial Intelligence” (IAAI), much like the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that was set up in 1957 to regulate the uses of nuclear energy. 

    Other challenges of AI

    • The challenge & fears of unknown:
    • The biggest challenge in achieving this balance is that no one knows for certain what’s going to happen next with AI. 
    • There are widespread fears. These range from apocalyptic scenarios such as AI posing an existential threat to humans, to more immediate fears, which include developing deepfakes that can be used to spread misinformation, create identity theft tools, more effective cyberattacks and automate tasks that are currently done by humans. 
    • Difficulty to control:
      • This technology is evolving so fast that stakeholders are falling behind miserably when it comes to putting safeguards. 
      • There have been calls to pause AI development to give time for governments and industry players to come up with guardrails. 
      • But the horse has already bolted, and at a good speed. There is competition between governments, universities and companies, all seeking to advance the technology, so it will be impossible to impose a worldwide moratorium. 
    • Lack of regulations:
      • It is clear that there is a global race for AI dominance. Nations across the world are investing heavily in AI research, development, and deployment. 
      • While healthy competition can drive innovation, an unregulated race can lead to a fragmented landscape where standards, ethics, and accountability fall by the wayside. 
      • Unregulated AI can also deepen social inequalities in addition to posing threats to privacy and civil liberties.

    Suggestions for India & way ahead

    • The agenda of reforming India’s technology sector is at once large and urgent.
      • Unlike in the nuclear domain, India does not have the luxury of taking things easy until it’s too late in the AI domain.
    • It is important for India to build on the current momentum in the partnership with the US on AI and other critical and emerging technologies. 
    • India needs to move on multiple policy fronts quickly to raise its position in the global AI hierarchy.
    • Building strong domestic capabilities in AI is critical to making the best out of international cooperation. That, in turn, calls for a larger role for the private sector.
      • If technological progress in the second half of the 20th century — especially in nuclear and space — were led by governments, it is the private sector that is leading AI research, development and innovation in the West. 
    Daily Mains Question
    [Q] Analyze the similarities between the geopolitics of Artificial Intelligence and nuclear Power. Why is it important for India to ‘not’ repeat its nuclear weapons mistakes with AI?