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Book Review on Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Power: 5 Battlegrounds; By Agrim Suri

Image Courtesy: Rajiv Malhotra

Article 47/2022

Authored by: Rajiv Malhotra, Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Power: 5 Battlegrounds (Rupa Publications, India), ISBN-10 9390356431

The book Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Power by Rajiv Malhotra is about the consequences of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on multiple realms of the society, maneuvering through the nexus between technology, ethics, and society. The Metaverse is coming, and are we ready for it? Malhotra takes a rather pessimistic approach to presuming that the Metaverse is an iceberg, and the world only knows the tip of it, even while predicting that this is a revolution the world cannot escape. AI is the buzzword of recent times and simply put, it is the simulation of human intelligence in machines that are programmed to think like humans and mimic their actions. Malhotra illustrates 5 battlegrounds such as Economic development and Jobs, Global Power, Psychological Control and Agency, Metaphysics and bringing together all these four, to weave the 5th battleground: India’s Future. He argues how AI will impact each of these battlegrounds and presupposes a world where machines will take over occupations and replace humans through gamification and social engineering, and immense possibilities of creating frameworks that imitate the grand narratives of a nation or civilization.

Mr. Malhotra is an Indian American thought leader, who works on Indic traditions and Indian diaspora. Through this book, he narrates how China has tapped into the abundant potential of AI to become a world leader, and how India could use the same for nation building, using the fierce democratic ethos of its constitution. He advocates for decolonizing AI to shift the power structure from foreign control to the hands of Indian policy makers, which fortunately has been accelerated through the Covid-19 pandemic. While this book doesn’t discuss in detail how AI functions, it aims to educate and empower the readers so that they will be better equipped to engage the digital giants on a level playing field.

Malhotra argues that China entered the race towards adapting AI very early compared to other countries early, and is now leading this industry. He substantiates his claim through a literature survey he conducted on papers published on AI and he points out that of all the papers published on AI about a third of them are by Chinese. Malhotra also indicates how India should acquire this agenda from China, on how they are using their vast population to dominate the field of AI. AI has indeed boosted the technological advancements of China and helped them assert dominance. As stated, AI is now an essential component for global domination and leadership. China is competing heavily with the United States knowing that “the one who conquers AI will take control of the world”, just like how the famous maxim of 90s stated, “those who conquer Indian Ocean conquers the world”.

AI has taken over all key aspects of human lives and the future of power- global, national and region, and is driven by centers of control, which is battling for jobs, world domination, agency, and self. In this chaos of change, through this book Mr. Malhotra suggests that we consciously consider our decisions to embrace the AI disruptions, mindful of the challenges and its impacts on our psychological being. The author states that he had to face many difficulties during his investigation of the disruptions on a personal level as his principals were being threatened, and the future edition will include solutions to the listed disruptions in the book.

Battleground 1 of this book talks about how AI will replace all the white and blue-collar jobs, moving up employees in the value chain to perform higher productivity tasks. Earlier beliefs were that only routine, manual jobs are in higher risks of replacement and adaptation of reasoning and emotional intelligence will save jobs. However, if the rules of a job performance can be well defined, any jobs can be automated, thereby reaffirming the Luddite Fallacy, which states that technology do not eliminate jobs, but simply changes the nature of these jobs. Until all these jobs are programmed, robot-centric advancements ensure that these robots do not work independently of humans, but alongside them. Thus, some vulnerable jobs will cease to exist, and they will be replaced by new jobs. This battleground also covers a major problem that will arise with the development of AI, that it will widen the gap between rich and poor, leaving the latter without resources and opportunities. During the Pandemic, while the curriculum was delivered through online mode, the digital divide in India was starkly visible through student suicides and dropouts.

Battleground 2 delves into the influence of AI on a global level, describing how AI has evolved to become a strategic weapon for Global Domination. AI has become a game-changing variable in global rankings for power and domination. Both China and the United States recognize AI as the most prized summit to conquer in their race for leadership. The author even compares China’s rise to power to the British during colonial age, indicating how China leads the AI revolution, and calls it digital colonization, in which United States also enjoys supreme influence. India has fallen behind in the race for AI as it preoccupied to deal with other complications that developed countries do not have to. The developing countries become mines of big data, for digital giants such as Facebook and Google, that makes or breaks governments of these big power countries.

Digital world is undergoing a revolution, and the next battleground examines how social media uses addiction and emotional analysis to design behavioral patterns to influence customer choices and maximize company profits. This battleground for Agency, uses emotional analysis to predict human behavior, substitute human contact, influence moods, and shift individual choices. The author provides various evidence to support his claim and cautions the users about emotional hijacking by accessing every search of the individual and creating a map of their likely responses.

The next battleground provides an excellent account of Metaphysics and the primacy of consciousness relating it to quantum mechanics and Vedanta. The author explains how the technical and commercial success of AI is built on the assumption that biology and the mind are algorithms, which can be modeled. He delves deep into transcendental narratives of supernatural, and claims that high technological dependence on pleasure and gratifications have undermined the sense of self, and free will among masses. This reduces human beings into hardware with biological algorithms- concluding self is illusionary, breaking humans into fragments, with no unified self.

The author summarizes all the battlegrounds in India's context in Battleground 5: India's future. India is an important case study of AI because it is where all the battlegrounds converge. He describes how Indian society has abandoned its metaphysical roots in dharma to pursue secular values, and in what manner Indian society has forsaken its metaphysical roots in dharma to chase the Americanization of artha (material pursuits) and kama (gratification of sensual desires), as a result, it is stuck in between. This book further compliments a new and upcoming buzz on the metaverse; the concept of a persistent, online, 3D universe that combines multiple different virtual spaces. One can think of it as a future iteration of the internet. The metaverse will allow users to work, meet, game, and socialize together in these 3D spaces, with similar repercussions on all the battlegrounds mentioned by Rajiv Malhotra. This book is an excellent read to learn about how as a society we should tread the waves of AI revolution with caution, instead of getting engulfed in the flash floods of disruption.

(Agrim Suri is currently a student of Heritage Xperiential Learning School, Gurgaon. The views expressed are those of the author and does not reflect the views of C3S.)

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