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Civilization in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

VoW 2019 | November 15 – 10:45 am to 11:45 am | Hall 1 | Keynote

Civilization in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

by Rajiv Malhotra | Chair: Sanjeev Chopra

Civilization in the Age of Artificial Intelligence


The first sessions of Valley of Words Literary Fest 2019 started at 1045 hrs. In the Greenpanel Hall, the first session was addressed by Rajiv Malhotra and chaired by Sanjeev Chopra. The cutting of the ribbon marked the beginning of the fest. 

Mr Chopra lead the session and paved the way for the speaker with nonchalant vigour and energy. The speaker, Mr Malhotra is currently working on his book pertaining to Artificial Intelligence. He called A.I. the “latest and most powerful destructive force”. In his session he elaborated and explained the concept of A.I. and in an intriguing manner spellled out the difference between Artificial Intelligence and a computer programme: A.I. have the ability to learn things through given examples and not using algorithms. This ability is, he said, is a consequence of ‘deep learning’ which blurs the divide between sentient creatures and Artificial Intelligence.

The technological and supplementary breakthroughs which accompany A.I. is immense, however Mr Malhotra addressed the other face of the coin and shed light on the issue which stems from this breakthrough. The issue at hand is that A.I. are learning how to be better the humans themselves. This is certainly aiding humans in multiple dimensions like military, farming, and knitting. However their efficiency is a cause of worry because they are taking over human jobs and occupations. Around 80% to 90% of all human jobs are susceptible to being taken over by A.I and machines.

Another prevalent issue which pops up in discussions pertaining to A.I. is the question ‘Are Machines Conscious?’. Mr Malhotra dismissed it as an irrelevant question and shifted focus from this question to one which addresses the issue of technology taking over human jobs. Why the latter issue is very pertinent is because it plays a monumental role in creating an eschewed demography of have’s and have-not’s. Consequently, Mr Malhotra called this phenomenon a “more dramatic revolution than the Industrial Revolution”.

Thereafter, he spelled out a number of terms he coined like ‘googlisation’ and ‘the East India Company Syndrome’ to describe the negative aspects of technological dependency on humans. This dependency has resulted in the redundancy of memories, accompanied with a decrease in attention span. Knowledge and education in such circumstances become obsolete as the need to retain information is no longer a necessity when they are available at one’s fingertips through a simple google search. Companies like Google have gained greater power than States and governments, which is a certain case for anxiety for democracy and human values.

Rajiv Malhotra raised fundamental questions and put them to the audience for thought. He referred to Indian Vedic traditions and challenged whether these traditions of old can be integrated into policy making of the contemporary world. With regards to the revival of Indian civilisation Mr. Malhotra highlighted its deep structural aspects which need to be addressed. Towards the end of his sessions he posed the dilemma confronting him: whether a return to Indian tradition is desirable/ viable. This dilemma is a product of the boom in population growth since the Vedic time till present. The scale of population poses a serious doubt on the efficacy of traditional methods. What may have worked centuries ago won’t really work when the population has growth fifty-fold. Mr. Malhotra introduces his book towards the end of the session but refrains from elaborating on it. The only facts he reveals of his book is that it will deal with the Vedic response to A.I. 

The session concluded with a Q&A session with six participants addressing their questions to the speaker. After a concluding statement by Rajiv Malhotra, the session came to a reluctant close. The session was highly thought provoking and informative and had the audience in rapt attention. 

Samson S Haokip
St. Stephens College

Session Images