Just as he was parking his car inside his house, a few people surrounded and shot him dead. It was all dark, and everything happened within a span of a few seconds. There was no witness and no weapons were left behind. With just grainy CCTV recording black and white footage, the miscreants were never to be found again, or so they thought. But modern Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies were used to perform colorisation (a process in which a black and white video/image is converted into color video/image),  image super-resolution (a process where a small-sized image can be scaled to 8-16 times the original resolution) and facial 3D reconstruction (from fragments of few pixels of the faces caught in different frames from the original video). 150 terabytes of traffic videos were scanned by AI to find a specific vehicle. This was enough to track a list of suspects and catch them within a month.

Believe me or not this all happened in India. We worked day and night on this project, and we knew that we will get some results, but when we did, it sent a chilling wave down our spines, telling us that AI will creep into our daily lives and we wouldn’t even know about it.

India currently is in a highly inefficient state, and for the next decade or so, AI will help us get efficient. AI has not reached a level where it can replace the comfort of human presence, and Indians demand human touch in everything. But then, there is this thing called, “constant change”.

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In the next few years, you will see smart cities adopting AI to manage traffic, detect traffic violations, manage the cleanliness or health of roads, track blacklisted people and perform behavioral biometry. To foresee more use cases, just read the tenders already out inviting state-of-art companies to demonstrate the feasibility and the competition is already fierce.

But India desperately needs AI talent. Most of the companies in this domain are western, have a decade-plus experience and have deeper pockets. Unfortunately, AI is not a domain which can be learned without strong fundamentals in Mathematics and core Programming. Students also need access to high-performance computers to be able to train, test and deploy their AI models. If you look at the courses taught even in the best colleges, you will realize that they are more than a decade old, and nearly all the current AI/ML development has happened since 2012 (AlexNet Paper).

If you look at the kind of AI start-ups coming out of India, you will see a pattern. Either they are building some kind of “chat-bot”, on IBM or someone else’s platform, or they are tagging data. This is not a sign of a country performing state-of-art research in AI, but rather a third world country deprived of talent and leveraging cheap labor.

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Once India’s next 5-6 years of AI-driven efficiency-honeymoon is over, we will see AI performing tasks we would either classify as mundane or where human touch/essence is not crucial. To see into the future just ask yourself what all would you want to happen automatically for you! Is it your IT returns? Is it your home security? Or is it simple health diagnosis? And what about drafting a legal agreement?  You get the point.

Artificial Intelligence has already arrived, and it will only become effective as time comes. In long term, things are not bright for India unless we are leading this development. We have already lost the Industrial Revolution, the semiconductor race, the operating system domination, and then the mobile revolution. When we will sleep tonight, three new revolutions will take their next steps, Quantum computers, Autonomous Electric Vehicles, and Artificial Intelligence. AI ties-in the other two field already. But as a country which claims to be a future super-power, we are far too behind in all of these.  

AI must be given importance at the national security level. If you are following the current developments, trials are in process for AI-driven drones, weapons and robotics. Elon Musk recently said, “AI is more dangerous than nuclear weapons”. He is referring to true AI, something which will compete with Human intelligence in near future. There is some time before True AI becomes a reality, but India has quite some distance to cover.

This is once in a millennia opportunity for India because the Artificial Intelligence revolution is going to be the last revolution. And it will cover our daily lives as well as our wars.

(Rohan Shravan is Founder & Director of Inkers)