Anthony Bourdain and the importance of ethics in artificial intelligence in the 21st century
Anthony Bourdain was a celebrated chef, author, travel documentary maker who produced a number of shows on international cuisine, culture and the human condition. He passed away in 2018, and a documentary on Bourdain called “roadrunner” came out recently. There are a lot of celebrities like Anthony Bourdain who have their documentaries, but why is he the center of the discussion today?
It is today at the center of discussions because of ethics and artificial intelligence.
The documentary revealed that it is the voice of the late Anthony Bourdain used to narrate the entire film. The filmmakers achieved this phenomenal feat by using artificial intelligence to clone Bourdain’s voice. They put together audio clips of Bourdain from different sources. Morgan Neville said they only forged fragments (three lines to be precise) of a letter he wrote to his girlfriend. Apart from that, it is the voice of the late Anthony Bourdain who tells his documentary.
The revelation gathered appreciations and criticisms. Some are amazed at what artificial intelligence and technology can do to give voice to the dead. Others fear that Bourdain’s voice is rigged. Criticism is emitted because Antony did not consent before sewing his voice via AI. Critics are unsure whether Antony would have consented to voice stitching if he was alive. Critics do not question whether the lines of the letter written to his girlfriend are true or not. They are concerned about the ethical practices of technology.
The director has even been threatened with setting up a documentary ethics panel to debate the issue. Few critics point to a lack of transparency. It is not a question of documentary ethics in cinema, but it is a question of truth which is much more than the truth of accountants. If director Neville hadn’t revealed the truth behind the voice, no one would have known it wasn’t Antony Bourdain. This revelation raises concerns about how easily people are misled with the help of artificial intelligence.
The world is grappling with fake news, fake news and fake facts, and artificial intelligence is adding fuel to the fire. The terms fact checkers, fake news, defeats are routine words. The easily misleading problem is the problem that must be solved before it becomes dangerous. People depend on technology, and cell phones are inseparable gadgets. A person sees their phone the first thing in the morning when they wake up and the last thing at night before falling asleep.
The human brain is extremely dependent on technology to perform menial jobs and slowly creating software to do their complex work. Innovation is an essential part of human civilization because it helps us in adoption and progress. Artificial intelligence helps us in online shopping and advertising, web search, digital personal assistants, machine translations, smart homes, cities and infrastructure, cybersecurity, automobiles, artificial intelligence COVID-19 fighter, fighting this information, health and healthcare, transport, agriculture, robotics etc …
Artificial intelligence also helps us achieve the 17 SDG sustainable development goals. But increased reliance on software can take us back to the Middle Ages. Augmented reality, virtual reality, machine learning, the internet of things, artificial intelligence can become a threat. Pop culture has given us enough references and predictions for how things can turn out. Films like The Matrix, The Terminator, Blade Runner, Interstellar, Metropolis, Transformers, 2001: ASpace Odyssey, Robot and Frank and so on offer us enough imagined possibilities.
What are the challenges posed by disruptive technologies?
Artificial intelligence feeds on data provided by humans. The algorithm is consciously and unconsciously powered by data fed by humans and is often used to modify election results. Artificial intelligence collects an insane amount of data that is sometimes misused. Companies that collect data exchange it without users’ consent, thus invading privacy. The data collected is used to create demographic profiles of people based on products, promotions, suggestions, services, etc.
In the above case, Bourdain’s voice was used without his consent. This demographic profile discriminates due to religion, race, ethnicity, caste, class, gender, sexual orientation etc. Recent antitrust cases and allegations against big tech companies like Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook confirm that artificial intelligence is being misused.
Artificial intelligence creates new inequalities as it will displace the workforce. This will increase the divide between the developed and the developing worlds. Robots and machine learning perform tasks performed by low-income countries. Self-service kiosks replace cashiers, fruit wrapping robots replace field workers, apps like Amazon and Flipkart reduce clerks’ work, and more. The technology is not resisted; what we resist is the loss of employment. There are no clear policies on retraining displaced workers.
Due to the Covid 19 pandemic, many people find themselves without a job. The displacement of jobs due to artificial intelligence and robots will cripple the already struggling middle class. Data centers consume a lot of energy to cool the IT equipment that leaves large carbon footprints. To reduce heat and power consumption, data centers are now moving to cooler places like Siberia. Countries are adopting stricter regulations so that data is stored on national servers. Reducing the environmental impact and moving to Siberia contradicts such laws.
Artificial intelligence expertise and knowledge must be outsourced as only 4% of Indian AI professionals have worked on emerging technologies. The government must increase the number of doctoral students to study emerging technologies in order to prevent foreign domination. The government must provide fast internet access and continuous power supply across India to host artificial intelligence and related services. Working from home has become a nuisance due to constant blackouts and slow internet.
India still has a long way to go to provide good quality infrastructure. Besides the lack of professional industries, government agencies do not use artificial intelligence in their work. Course on artificial intelligence, IoT should be taught in the curriculum to raise awareness. Facebook, Google, et cetera are “hegemons” of disruptive technologies. A new player cannot swim in this sea. Hegemony poses huge barriers to entry.
What has India done – the Niti Aayog report?
Technology is essential, but regulation is the need of the moment. An ecosystem must be in place for business to be conducted ethically, without compromising privacy and security protocols. A balance needs to be struck between the governance of AI and the promotion of AI for the public good. Businesses, employees and governments must come to the negotiating table to agree on common guiding principles and their application.
The NCSP 2013 National Cyber Security Policy talks about educating consumers, employees and citizens about cybersecurity. It aims to educate people about threats, best practices and how to avoid security breaches. Niti Aayog’s national strategy for artificial intelligence has focused on five areas to use artificial intelligence, which will benefit society the most. These five sectors are health, agriculture, education, smart mobility and transport, and smart cities.
As many Indians as possible are engaged in agriculture and related activities which do not provide enough money, hence the need for AI. Given the Covid 19 pandemic, healthcare, transport, housing and education are critical sectors that require special attention. Niti Aayog’s report for responsible AI for all highlights the need for an ecosystem that drives research and innovation in artificial intelligence.
The ecosystem must solve the problems of society and provide India with bargaining power by adapting these solutions on a global scale.. Artificial intelligence is in its infancy in India. Frameworks and guidelines must be established for responsible management. Meanwhile, the government must guarantee the principles of equality, confidentiality and security, transparency and accountability for ethical practice..