January , 2024
Tackling the threat of AI-generated content
20:51 pm

Buroshiva Dasgupta

Today, illusion is more real than reality. The social media has made this possible. As the ancient myth goes, Plato had banished all ‘liars’ from the Republic: they included the poets, dramatists and the creative thinkers. It needed an Aristotle to restore their dignity, stating that ‘imagination’ could predict the future: its ‘pre-science’ – what ‘may be’, rather than ‘what is’.

The controversy between illusion and reality, truth and fiction never dies. Today’s technology has fomented this controversy further, so much so that the government has come down heavily on the technology companies to regulate ‘deep fakes’. The Union IT ministry has been holding series of meeting with the tech firms in the last couple of months to ensure that the social media consumers are not misled any further. The government advisory, on regulating all artificial intelligence (AI) generated content, comes just after some prominent actors and politicians were victims of deep fake. Now with this latest advisory, the government wants to ensure 100% enforcement of the law.

Initially, the tech companies had to abide by the Indian IT Act, 2000 where the content specially listed under Rule 3(1) (b) had to be clearly communicated to the users every time at the time of use, like a statutory warning. In 2021, the IT Rules were amended (under the Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) to include the ‘intermediaries’ to follow the rules – like Meta’s Instagram and Whatsapp, Google’s YouTube and global and domestic firms, including Amazon, Microsoft and Telegram. While the tech firms has an internal policy of cautioning and discouraging spread of malicious content, the ‘intermediary platforms’ benefitted  from an immunity from prosecution. The government warned that it might amend the rules further if the enforcement was not complete and effective. 

The evolution of AI generated content was tolerable in the social media till the arrival of ChatGPT. The evolution, experts say, is now at the point of reaching the fifth stage – in a scale of 10 - where AI is supposed to attain superhuman qualities. At the highest level (stage 10), it is conceived, it will behave like god. At stage 5 (sometimes described as Q), AI can break open all security codes, including that of the banks. Frankenstein is no longer fiction. ChatGPT is already changing our work life. Formal business letters are being written at ease with ChatGPT; so also slogans and product descriptions at the advertising agencies. Technology (which brings in this ‘illusion’) is threatening the real: loss of jobs. Such a crossroad had arrived when the computer was introduced and jobs were then threatened too. The computer, we saw, did not ‘eat up’ jobs; rather it opened up more job possibilities. Those who believe in the superiority of human intelligence refuse to give up to the threat of AI generated content. One skill will lead to newer skills : willingness to relearn is all that is required now.

But the real threat is of a different kind. Atomic energy is a benefactor to mankind; but the atom bomb isn’t.  The evolution of AI needs to be closely monitored and tempered with the needs of the society. It cannot have unfettered growth: it’s a tool, not a weapon of mass misinformation. But as things stand now, the control of these revolutions in technologies seem to remain in the hands of the powerful and people with dictatorial inclinations can do much harm to the society. History is full of such examples. Already, on the ground of AI threat, a fundamental right of free speech is in danger. The Broadcast Bill comes riding on the back of the AI threat. No one in power likes criticism. So the media-bashing continues. We apprehend witnessing an Aristotelian tragedy when, in order to tackle the ‘evil’ of deep fake and misinformation, the ‘good’ of free speech  gets sacrificed.

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