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This article has been written by Devagni Vatsaraj, pursuing the Diploma Programme in Cyber Law, FinTech Regulations and Technology Contracts from LawSikho.


Artificial Intelligence or AI is an interdisciplinary science concerned with building smart machines which are capable of performing tasks that usually require human intelligence. Having said that it is a discipline of computer science, Sebastian Thrun, quotes AI as, “Nobody phrases it this way, but I think that artificial intelligence is almost a humanities discipline. It’s really an attempt to understand human intelligence and human cognition.” Artificial Intelligence is budding quickly. We live in a period of rapid technological development, in which yesterday’s fiction is today’s widely accepted fact.  We are surrounded by AI- from our houses, to cars, to our electronics, everything functions through AI. This probably is the largest technological revolution of our live times, with which comes the potential to disrupt the very existence of humans. Gemma Whelan raised a concern that she is interested but more frightened by AI, that, “….Things can become real in your mind, you can be tricked, and you believe things you wouldn’t ordinarily. A world run by automations doesn’t seem completely unrealistic anymore. ….” Now it is time for us to stop our routine, sit back and look into the potential of AI, rather the potential risk and harm that it can cause. We need to look at what we have, where it is and where it could go. 

In this article, we will address how AI is used by terrorist groups, the defence sector of the countries and various businesses across different sectors. After we weigh that, it will be easier for us to identify whether it’ll be of benefit to us or serves as a weapon that’ll destroy us. 

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With a lot of debate going around on the topic, the researchers and tech supporters strongly believe it to have an excellent future, while critics, the government and media are all focused on how this new age technology can bring dangers, make lethal weapons which can cause danger when they fall into unlawful hands. The problem with people is that people they conclude too early before they even understand the technology completely. Back in the days and even not far in the past, terrorist organisations used to disrupt peace by large small-scale attacks such as mass-shooting or planting bombs in cars, vans, lunchboxes, etc. But with AI playing such an active role today, the nature of threats and the way they are executed have changed. One of such popular instance where the technology was used as a tool for spying and extracting information was when Chinese hackers were able to gain excess to the military transport planes of Boeing. The story was extensively covered by WIRED. Similarly in 2016, Russia had started more than 20 campaigns across 12 countries to influence the US elections. These campaigns often digitally targeted the people through social media (40% campaigns on Facebook and 90% on Twitter), fake websites and Russia-operated media. 

When Artificial Intelligence and terrorist training work together

Similarly terrorist groups such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda are using AI like never before and the results of their intelligence summed up with the technology, are unimaginably devastating. In 2016, ISIS carried out its first ever drone attack killing two warriors in Northern Iraq. Initially they used these drones for dropping off small bombs but they gradually started improving themselves by using it for surveillance; used it as a spotter to figure out where the army is most vulnerable, study the lifestyle of men, how they spend their leisure time, etc., and then send armed drones to attack. The terrorist group declared early in January 2017, that they had formed “Unmanned Aircraft of the Mujahideen,” a department completely devoted to drones- to manufacture, modify and deploy drones. They claim to have killed two hundred soldiers in Iraq; the official records express that they have certainly killed several dozens, if not hundreds. Robert Taber, in his book, “War of the Flea” has compared the government and use of technology by non-state actors, as that with dog and the flea. Though the dog is bigger and powerful, it cannot out win the flea because they are smaller and much faster. These fleas operated by non-state actors such as terrorists etc. can crush down the government to its knees without even coming in their proximity radar. 

In a short video called “Slaughter Bots”, it is spectacularly shown how drones can take out the evil guys without any collateral damage but in later the video, the table turns and it is depicted how this technology in wrong hands can intimidate young minds to do things that are not lawful. Anyone can now create tension without being held responsible for their actions. Slaughter Bots are small AI operated drones that fly in swarms, have profiles of their targets installed in them, use facial recognition methods to identify the victim and attack them. The video conveys that the technology is in the market, it is only the perception of people and their intentions that will shape the use of this technology, to develop and make it perfect. 

It further shows how the government and terrorist groups can use this technology and to what extent can be met and where we as a society are headed. Legends like EIon Musk, Stephen Hawking, Stuart Russel, Naom Chomsky, Steve Woznaik, Ryan Gariepy, etc have over the years warned us of the threat posed by technology. To put in Mr. Hawking’s words, “The genie is out of the bottle. I fear that AI may replace humans altogether.” He emphasised that humanity has reached a point of no return. SpaceX chief does not only address the issue at meetings and conferences; he also runs Open AI, which promotes ethical AI. He believes that AI is a weapon of terror and can lead to the third revolution. Mr. Russel, in the video Slaughterbots says that he has been working on AI for 35 years and he believes, “Its potential to benefit humanity is enormous, even in defence, but allowing machines to choose to kill humans will be devastating to our security and freedom.” Likewise, AI based Generative Adversarial Networks (GAN) generates new faces, profiles and targets high profile Bureaucrat for sensitive information. A spy had made a LinkedIn profile in the name of Katie Jones and had made acquaintance with the US administrations. 

AI based autonomous weapons are cheap and can cover tracks; moreover, these terrorist groups have a strong engendering and scientific departments that put in place through machine learning, the right vehicle to carry out their mission- by facial recognition and sound frequency techniques, the drones, killer robots. The most frightening situation is the proliferation of technology. Since it is the private companies who develop AI, they would sell their product for commercial gains; similarly is the larger picture where small countries can have AI weaponized and use it for themselves or sell it to gain international attraction. Noel Sharkey, a professor of AI and a member of campaign to Stop Killer Robots; raised his concern that if the dictator states get a hold of these AI technology based weapons, they could no longer be stopped from killing masses, not even by its army. The soldiers will merely be a puppet in the hands of the dictators’.

AI is fun and peace

Not everyone thinks that AI is a tool of destruction. Microsoft’s director, Chris Bishop believes that general human intelligence is way different and higher from narrow artificial intelligence and that speaking of terminators rising and taking control of the world is a discussion and a worry of at least some decades later. Having said the potential of harm that AI poses, it also has immense potential in benefiting humanity. It should not be ignored that apart from using these advanced techniques, the use of internet and social media also aids in the wrong doing; however Facebook announced in June 2017 that are using AI to combat terrorism. They use AI to detect content that would lead to terrorism or is of such similar nature, and remove it even before it is viewed by the users.  The company further stated that it can create a better place for people since it owns Whatsapp, Instagram and has partnered with YouTube, Microsoft and Twitter; it uses all the data that they receive from these platforms, study its pattern through the Machine Learning process and creates a database of how these terrorist organisations function. 

While these illegal groups can use technology to hurt people, the government too does not back down in protecting the lives of its citizens and to maintain harmony. Countries are using AI to counter-terrorism, to protect their borders in the air, under the water and on the land. Few instances are, UK’s Taranis drone, an unmanned, stealthy air vehicle is to operate by 2030. It is believed that it can replace a piloted fighter plane of the Air Force. Sea Hunter, a warship christened in 2016, is believed to work as a weapon in the war. Similarly Russia and the USA are using robotic tanks that can be remote controlled. Samsung SGR-A1 of South Korea is capable of policing its border and can fire without supervision. Even the Chinese military is testing small unmanned vehicles that will be used to overpower the rival and defend themselves from attacks. As against Prof. Sharkey’s line of thought, Alvin Wilby thinks that banning the use of “offensive” weapons is difficult to enforce. There is already a law on use of armed forces which allows the “use of minimum force necessary to achieve your objective, while creating the minimum risk of unintended consequences, civilian losses.” It is not only the defence sector that has deployed AI technology but various sectors such as banking, transportation, advertising, healthcare, etc. have started using it and have great success stories. 

When the state governments felt it’s not too late to be Tech-y

Let us now have a look at how India has recognised and used AI to improve upon public safety (summary of which is provided on the India AI website).

  • The Uttar Pradesh government has deployed Jarvis, an AI enabled video analytics platform which monitors (through CCTV cameras, that cover upto 900Kms of area) prison inmates behaviour, does a thorough analysis of their as well as visitors facial recognition, studies body language for any suspicious conversation/actions. This has been set up in almost 70 prisons. The top officials have real time access to the video which helps them eliminate potential threats of trespassing, violence, smuggling of electronics and weapons, etc. the UP government had proposed last year that they will install AI bots in schools that’ll help track student’s performance and participation and will be a step towards education without corruption and bias. 
  • The Government of Maharashtra proposed 800 Crore plan to detect cybercrimes and to secure the cyberspace by software. This software uses big data analytics and AI to create a database of crimes, behavioural pattern, location and to predict any crime. Other landmark initiatives of the said government are; signing of an MOU in February 2018, with Microsoft India for developing solutions based on AI, blockchain, IoT, deep learning etc. in the fields of education and digital agriculture, also, the Wadhwani AI- launched by the Maharashtra Government to identify problems and develop AI based solutions for banking, insurance, infrastructure etc. In January of the same year, an MOU with the World Economic Forum was signed to set up “Centre for Fourth Industrial Revolution” wherein its first project amongst the three, focused on expanding the use of AI to tackle requirements in sectors such as healthcare, education and agriculture. Project Mahavedh was established to study and generate related data and the government has also set up digital booths at the panchayat level to experts’ advice on crop patterns, and helps in crop failure assessment. Along with Wadhwani AI, the government has signed a MOU with NITI Aayog to establish International Centre for Transformational Artificial Intelligence to focus on rural healthcare, which uses data research and AI for diagnosis and treatment of TB and cancer. Partnered with Haptik, the government announced an AI chatbot. “Aaple Sarkar Bot” provides information for various public services offered by the government. They have recently started providing this service across multiple languages.
  • The Government of Haryana and CivilCops, in October 2018, signed a pact to develop AI based platforms for road related issues. This app will automate the process of receiving and analyzing complaints through voice and chat enabled processes, which will reduce the manpower and reduce costs. This new app will replace the existing Harpath app.
  • Tamil Nadu e-Governance Agency (TNeGA) along with Anna University, developed a chatbot named “Anil” using AI and Natural Language Processing. TNeGA has further developed a street light monitoring system, which helps in detecting failure in real time. To help the farmers, it has developed “Uzhavan ” to identify pest infected crops; the farmers can simply click photos of their crop and send it on the application and the inbuilt AI system then analysis, identifies the pest and provides farmers with appropriate remedies. Chennai Corporation run schools noticed that many students did not reach on time, bunked classes and no proper record keeping was in place. To tackle this problem, an AI based attendance system was deployed which used Facial Recognition System. This proved to be successful because many students started attending the school on time.
  • The Telangana government launched a Smart RoboCop in 2017 that helps police in managing law and order. It looks after the security of sensitive places such as malls, railway stations, airports and also helps in management of traffic. It interacts with people, resolves their queries, recognises people and identifies suspects and detects weapons. RoboCop is equipped with GPS, camera, temperature and proximity sensors. The government has used AI technology for eye screening, creating a database of properties, for R&D and for drone based delivery. In January 2019, Telangana State Tourism Development Corporation launched “T-Aadab ”, AI enabled chatbot, which provides information on landmarks, places and tour packages. It recognises Indian as well as foreign languages.

Things go better when businesses use AI

Let us now look at how AI has contributed to the corporate sector. PwC in its report showcased to what extent has the sector approached towards the concept of AI and has implemented it.

It is great to see how India is at 62% competing rapidly to its global counterpart. However it is equally saddening to see the statistics that there is a high percentage (53%) which shows that we do not have a formal approach to identify risks posed by AI. Though AI is at a trial and error stage in India, it has gained recognition across various fields.

Many companies and businesses have promoted AI and have been successful. These AI based robots/applications/machines have achieved tremendous fame by demonstrating creativity and presence of mind. Here are a few landmark achievements:

  • The year 2020 has been a year of ideas, creativity and innovation. GPT-3 of OpenAI generated articles on any topic that would be asked about and it is generally very difficult to identify at the first glance whether it is written by a human or is machine-made. It has the ability to write and talks exactly like a human. Another OpenAI developed system has defeated world’s top players in the game, Dota 2;
  • Another recognised achievement on a large scale is Google’s DeepMind AlphaGo AI’s victory in 2016 against a human grandmaster in the complex Chinese game, Go. Using Deep Learning neural networks, it was trained what possible moves can human grand players undertake and how to outsmart them;
  • In 2012, AlexNet’s performance demonstrated AI’s potential to find results to the most complex issues that were earlier thought to be difficult for a machine to contemplate. Its accuracy was such that its error rate was almost half compared to its rivals. That year it participated in an image recognition contest and won the ImageNet Large Scale Visual Recognition Challenge;
  • In 2011, IBM’s Watson made worldwide recognition when it won Jeopardy, a US quiz show. It used Natural Learning process and analytics to answer the questions, sometimes even in a fraction of second, to questions framed and posed by humans;
  • Google’s Toyota Prius, a driverless car, made self-driving possible in 2009 when it covered 10 journeys of 100 miles each.

This shows that AI helps not only in sectors of healthcare, defence, banking, etc. but also brings a lot of revenue through the corporate sector. This not only brings financial gain but also attracts good reputation. 

It’s more than just technology, it is for the love and hate of AI

While we have now listed out the pros and cons of this new age technology, we must decide what result we seek and what we are putting at stake. Are we justified to use it to make economic progress at the stake of security or are we using it for security, keeping at stake our ethics. Morals and Ethics have different meanings to different people but it all comes down to what is generally accepted in the societies across the borders. I believe the question that we seek to answer herein depends on what is the mentality and actions of the people.

This reminds me of a phrase by Ezio Auditore da Firenze on Humanitarianism from the game, Assassins. The later part of the phrase quotes, “….. We are free to follow our own path. There are those who will take that freedom from us, and too many of you *gladly give it. But it is our ability to choose – whatever you think is true – that makes us human… There is no book or teacher to give you the answers, to show you the path. Choose your own way! Do not follow me, or anyone else.” 

The same goes with AI. When AI comes into the picture, there comes the responsibility to use it sincerely; there is no strict rule as to how the technology is to be used or any guiding principle as to what is ethical. But it is on us, humans, to apply our rational mind and conscience to make an inference. AI is on the verge of explosion that will make us intellectually handicapped. With the debates and discussions happening all around the world, the base question is the ethical and moral implications of the technology. We should consider the current state of technology, its usage and also consider the potential shift that we are to witness. The emotional and rational concerns will have a major say in how the society for our future generations will be shaped. AI and technology that allows the creation of AI is already out in the market and it is inevitable. 

We have seen a rampant shift in the governments’ approach since the 20th century because people have started being aware of their rights; they have a more rational approach as opposed to using violence. Organisations are continuously going to develop and implement AI in our daily interactions and it will bring about a rapid shift in the digital era. Like every other technology, even AI has a dual use but it is on us, what we propagate, practice and believe. When I say that AI is great, it helps in defence mechanism and fight terrorism; I believe that there is huge irony even in our thought process.

 Will AI result in new age terrorism? We are trying to compare about the good and bad of AI yet we practice the same; we try to keep an open mind as to how our government is correct in using AI as a weapon, on the other hand we are the “slaves” to our “master” when we cannot really question them and, we try to propagate peace and harmony by eliminating the terrorist groups but our means to do so is murder. Who is the terrorist then- them, who use the technology with malice or us, who use it with good intentions but with blood on our hands. Most future possibilities are hypothetical and the culture of our society is such that even if we make great progress in the fields of science and technology, we still are spirituality and philosophy believing people. Artificial Intelligence is budding quickly. We require an urgent need to approach this dilemma, weigh our options and have our stand.


There is a divided stand on Artificial Intelligence; however, these opinions are based on the limited knowledge that we have. There is a lot more to AI, a major part that we are not aware about. All the scenarios are hypothetical at the moment but they raise existential questions like if AI can do anything that humans can and better, do they have the decision making power as to when does it (the technology) get obsolete or what sectors should be focused on for development (or not be focused on at all). AI is both enthusiasm and fear on equal measures. 

To some, it is a tool to summon the guilty and to others, it is a tool that ends humanity. In my opinion, the reality is somewhere in between these two lines of thoughts. Yes, AI will change our lifestyle, we will have to develop our learning and skills, compromise and let the machine decide at times- AI will change the world. But it is on us that while we are using this technology more than we ever did, we use our common sense and experience to detect any risk, anticipate harm, take preventive measures and share this knowledge so that even the others do not get “influenced” by the technology. It is going to be a never ending chase of technology and humans but it is for the best that human intelligence and artificial intelligence work together for the BETTERMENT of the society.

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