A New Global Standard for AI Ethics : Daily Current Affairs

Relevance: GS-3: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.

Relevance: GS-2: Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure.

Key Phrases: UNESCO’s, Artificial intelligence, AI algorithms, Biased or discriminatory, Data Privacy Concerns, Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence, Accountability, Literacy skills, Transparency.

Why in News?

  • UNESCO’s global agreement on the ethics of AI can guide governments and companies alike.


  • Artificial intelligence (AI) is more present in our lives than ever. From predicting what we want to see as we scroll through social media to helping us understand weather patterns to manage agriculture, AI is ubiquitous.
  • AI algorithms can also be partially credited for the rapidity with which vaccines were developed to tackle COVID-19. The algorithms crunched complex data from clinical trials being undertaken in all corners of the world, creating global collaborations that could not have been imagined even a decade ago.

What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)?

  • The term was coined in 1956 by John McCarthy.
  • AI is a way of making a computer, a computer-controlled robot, or software perform humanlike tasks.
  • It refers to the ability of machines to perform cognitive tasks like thinking, perceiving, learning, problem-solving and decision making.
  • It describes the action of machines accomplishing tasks that have historically required human intelligence. It includes technologies like machine learning, pattern recognition, big data, neural networks, self algorithms etc.


Do you Know?

  • The global AI market size was valued at USD 93.5 billion in 2021 and is projected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 38.1% from 2022 to 2030. The share of AI in the Indian market is valued at USD 7.8 billion in 2021.

What are the Benefits of Artificial Intelligence?

Some of the important advantages of AI are as under:

  • Decision-making skills are enhanced with the usage of AI. This could also aid in improving governance.
  • The AI systems are much more organized at maintaining records.
  • This technology can work with equal efficacy under hostile situations and they reduce human-intensive labour.
  • Detection and monitoring of fraudulent activities become easier with the usage of AI.
  • AI also plays a key role in communication systems.
  • AI is being increasingly utilized as a part of nuclear control and space probe manufacturing systems.
  • AI technology can also be utilized to work in situations that can prove to be dangerous for humans, thereby saving human lives. It can also be deployed for the prediction of natural disasters.

AI has huge potential and sector-wise usage of AI can be understood with the help of the following:

  • Healthcare:
    • AI plays an important role in the field of healthcare by addressing issues of high barriers particularly in rural areas that lack poor communication and a professional healthcare system. Some of the emerging application includes
      • AI-driven diagnostics,
      • personalised treatment,
      • early identification of potential pandemics,
      • imaging diagnostics etc.
    • AI algorithms can also be partially credited for the rapidity with which vaccines were developed to tackle COVID-19. The algorithms crunched complex data from clinical trials being undertaken in all corners of the world, creating global collaborations that could not have been imagined even a decade ago.
    • For the Covid-19 response, an AI-enabled Chatbot was used by MyGov for ensuring communications.
    • The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) deployed the Watson Assistant on its portal to respond to specific queries of frontline staff and data entry operators from various testing and diagnostic facilities across the country on Covid-19.
    • Application of AI can be beneficial in precision medicine – predicting what treatment protocols are likely to succeed on a patient based on various patient attributes and the treatment context.
    • It will help in creation, understanding and classification of clinical documentation and published research. It can analyse unstructured clinical notes on patients, prepare reports, transcribe patient interactions and conduct conversational AI.
  • Agriculture:
    • Farmers can analyse factors like weather conditions, temperature, water usage or soil conditions collected from their farm to better inform their decisions.
    • AI has a major role to play in driving a food revolution and meeting the increased demand for food. Applied AI addresses challenges such as lack of assured irrigation, inadequate demand prediction, excess use of pesticides, fertilizers, and fungicides.
    • Some uses include improved crop production through advanced detection of pest attacks, prediction of crop prices, and real-time advisory.
    • International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics ICRISAT has developed an AI-power sowing app, which utilises weather models and data on local crop yield and rainfall to more accurately predict and advise local farmers on when they should plant their seeds.
  • Manufacturing:
    • It can enable ‘Factory of the Future’ through flexible and adaptable technical systems to facilitate various processes and machinery to respond to unfamiliar or unexpected situations by making smart decisions.
    • Impact areas include engineering, supply chain management, production, maintenance, quality assurance, and in-plant logistics and warehousing.
  • Retail:
    • Being one of the early adopters of AI solutions, it provides applications such as developing user experience by personalised suggestions, image-based product searches, and preference-based browsing.
    • Other uses include customer demand anticipation, improved inventory management, and efficient delivery management.
  • Energy:
    • AI can be used for modeling and forecasting of the energy system to reduce unpredictability.
    • AI also focuses on increasing the efficiency of power balancing and enabling the storage of energy in renewable energy systems. This process uses smart meters to enable intelligent grids, thus, improving the affordability and reliability of solar energy. Apart from these, AI may also be deployed for predictive maintenance of grid infrastructure.
  • Smart Cities:
    • Incorporation of applied AI in developing cities could also help in meeting the demands of a rapidly growing population and providing them with enhanced quality of life. Traffic control for reducing congestion enhanced security by providing improved crowd management are some of the potential uses of AI systems.
  • Transports, Logistics, and Smart Mobility:
    • Improved traffic management, autonomous trucking, and delivery.
  • Education and Skilling:
    • AI plays a major role in the Indian education sector by providing solutions for quality and access issues including augmentation and enhancement of the learning experience through personalised learning, automating and expediting administrative tasks, and predicting the need for student intervention to reduce dropouts or recommend vocational training.
    • The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) had launched a “Responsible AI for Youth” programme this year in April, wherein more than 11,000 students from government schools completed the basic course in AI.
    • The Central Board of Secondary Education has integrated AI in the school curriculum to ensure that students passing out have the basic knowledge and skills of data science, machine learning and artificial intelligence.
  • Policing:
    • With the help of AI, one can match facial recognition with the central database, predict the pattern of crime, analyse CCTV footage which are available across the country to identify suspects.
    • Government is digitising all the records, especially the crime records, putting it into one single place called CCTNS where all the data including the image, biometrics, or the criminal history of a convict or suspect is available.

Issues related to Artificial Intelligence

AI-related technology has multiple benefits but it also has certain limitations which includes the following:

  • Biased or discriminatory:
    • The data used to feed into AI often aren't representative of the diversity of our societies, producing outcomes that can be said to be biased or discriminatory.
  • Error in Technology:
    • There are problems emerging in facial recognition technologies in identifying women and darker-skinned people. For these technology, the error rate was 1% for light-skinned men, but 19% for dark-skinned men, and up to 35% for dark-skinned women. Biases in facial recognition technologies have led to wrongful arrests..
  • Data Privacy Concerns:
    • AI also presents serious data privacy concerns. The algorithm’s never-ending quest for data has led to our digital footprints being harvested and sold without our knowledge or informed consent.
  • Risk of Unemployment:
    • The hierarchy of labour is concerned primarily with automation. Robotics and AI companies are building intelligent machines that perform tasks typically carried out by low-income workers: self-service kiosks to replace cashiers, fruit-picking robots to replace field workers, etc.

Facts related to Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence

  • On 24 November 2021, the Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence was adopted by UNESCO’s General Conference at its 41st session.
  • In this session 193 countries reached a groundbreaking agreement at UNESCO on how AI should be designed and used by governments and tech companies.
  • UNESCO’s Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence took two years to put together and involved thousands of online consultations with people from a diverse range of social groups.
  • It aims to fundamentally shift the balance of power between people, and the businesses and governments developing AI.
  • UNESCO’s work on the Recommendation is building on the preliminary study on ethics of artificial intelligence of UNESCO’s World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST). This study emphasizes that currently no global instrument covers all the fields that guide the development and application of AI in a human-centred approach.

Recommendation on the ethics of Artificial Intelligence:

UNESCO’s Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence inter-alia includes the following:

  • Countries must use affirmative action to make sure that women and minority groups are fairly represented on AI design teams. This could take the form of quota systems that ensure that these teams are diverse or the form of dedicated funds from their public budgets to support such inclusion programmes.
  • It also underscores the importance of the proper management of data, privacy and access to information.
  • It establishes the need to keep control over data in the hands of users, allowing them to access and delete information as needed.
  • It also calls on member States to ensure that appropriate safeguards schemes are devised for the processing of sensitive data and effective accountability, and redress mechanisms are provided in the event of harm.
  • Additionally, the broader socio-cultural impacts of AI-related technologies are also addressed, with the Recommendation taking a strong stance that
    • AI systems should not be used for social scoring or mass surveillance purposes.
    • Particular attention must be paid to the psychological and cognitive impact that these systems can have on children and young people.
    • Member States should invest in and promote not only digital, media and information literacy skills, but also socio-emotional and AI ethics skills to strengthen critical thinking and competencies in the digital era.
  • Ensuring accountability and transparency of AI-related technologies, underpinning a strong rule of law that adapts to new digital frontiers.

Initiative to promote Artificial Intelligence in India:

Various steps have been taken to promote capacity building in Artificial Intelligence which include the following:

  • National Programme on Responsible Use of AI for Youth: With the objective to empower the youth to become AI ready and help reduce the skill gap, government along with Industry partner has started this initiative to promote AI awareness among Government school going children.
  • To foster innovation through research, government has created several ‘Centres of Excellence’ on various Emerging Technologies including Artificial Intelligence. These centres connect various entities such as startups, enterprises, venture capitalists, government and academia to look into problem statements and develop innovative solutions.
  • Government of India organised Responsible AI for Social Empowerment (RAISE) in 2020, a first-of-its-kind global meeting of minds on Artificial Intelligence to drive India’s vision and roadmap for social transformation, inclusion and empowerment through responsible AI.
  • NITI Aayog's National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence, 2018: This strategy was being recommended by the Artificial Intelligence task force headed by V. Kamakoti. It brought 5 Core areas for application of AI i.e. Agriculture, Education, Health, Smart cities/ infrastructure; Transport with AI.
  • US India Artificial Intelligence (USIAI) Initiative: It is an initiative by Indo-U.S. Science and Technology Forum (IUSSTF),to focuses on AI cooperation in critical areas that are priorities for both countries. USIAI will serve as a platform to discuss opportunities, challenges, and barriers for bilateral AI R&D collaboration, enable AI innovation, help share ideas for developing an AI workforce, and recommend modes and mechanisms for catalyzing partnerships..

Way forward:

  • It is hoped that governments will themselves use the Recommendation as a framework to establish and update legislation, regulatory frameworks, and policy to embed humanistic principles in enforceable accountability mechanisms.
  • To accompany countries in the realisation of the full potential of AI and with the aim of building the institutional capacity of countries and all the relevant stakeholders, UNESCO is in the process of developing tools to help them assess their readiness in the implementation of the Recommendation and identify, monitor and assess the benefits, concerns and risks of AI system.
  • To ensure that the full potential of these technologies is reached, the right incentives for ethical AI governance need to be established in national and sub-national policy.
  • AI related technologies cannot continue to operate without a common rulebook. Over the coming months and years, the UNESCO Agreement’s recommendation will serve as a compass to guide governments and companies, to voluntarily develop and deploy AI technologies that conform with the commonly agreed principles

Source: The Hindu

Mains Question:

Q. Discuss the significance of the UNESCO’s Recommendation on the ethics of artificial intelligence.