The explosion of digital uncertainty – Threat of Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Emergence of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) | 19 October 2023 | UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis

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What's the article about?

  • It talks about the threat of Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the emergence of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI).


  • GS3: Challenges to Internal Security through Communication Networks, Role of Media and Social Networking Sites in Internal Security Challenges, Basics of Cyber Security; Money-Laundering and its prevention
  • Prelims


  • Recent advances in Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) have captured the imagination of the public, businesses, and governments alike.
  • The Government of India has also released a comprehensive report on the opportunities afforded by this current wave of AI.
  • However, there is an exponential explosion of digital uncertainty, and few are able to fully comprehend the nature of the new threat, the likes of which have not been witnessed in past decades, if not centuries.


  • Scant Understanding of the Implications:
    • The narrow aperture of understanding of the layers of digital infrastructure means that the vast majority of people are ignorant of the implications.
    • While cyber has attracted a measure of attention, there is little understanding of the nature of today’s cognitive warfare.
    • Cognitive warfare truly ranks alongside other elements of modern warfare such as the domains of maritime, air, and space.
  • Emergence of AGI:
    • If AI is the grave threat that the world is currently contemplating, we are only witnessing the tip of the iceberg. As growing numbers of people become dependent on digital networks, AI is able to influence many critical aspects of their thinking and functioning.
    • What is simultaneously exhilarating and terrorizing is the fact that many advances in AI are now being birthed by the machine itself.
    • Sooner rather than later, we will witness the emergence of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) — Artificial Intelligence that is equal and or superior to human intelligence, which will penetrate whole new sectors and replace human judgment, intuition, and creativity.
  • Threat of AGI:
    • The impending dawn of AGI is far more disruptive and dangerous than anything else that we have encountered thus far.
    • There is real fear that it could alter the very fabric of nation-states and tear apart real and imagined communities across the globe.
    • Social and economic inequalities will rise exponentially. Social anarchy will rule the streets.
    • It has an inherent capacity to flood a country with fake content masquerading as truth, and for imitating known voices with false ones that sound eerily familiar.
    • This could lead to a breakdown of the concept of trust — of what is said, read, or heard — and could lead to overturning the trust pyramid with catastrophic consequences.
  • AGI and Its Manifestations:
    • AGI will enable highly autonomous systems that outperform humans in many areas, including economically (valuable) work, education, social welfare, and the like.
    • AGI systems will have the potential to make decisions that are unpredictable and uncontrollable, which could have unintended consequences, often with harmful outcomes.
    • It is difficult to comprehend at this point its many manifestations, but job displacements and economic displacements would be initial symptoms of what could become a tsunami of almost all human-related activity.
    • Digital data could in turn become converted into digital intelligence, enlarging the scope for disruption and the reining in of entire sectors.
    • It would enhance inequalities and exacerbate social disparities, and worsen economic disparities.
  • Dawn of the Age of Digital Colonialism:
    • AGI could prove to be as radical a game-changer in the world of the 21st century as the Industrial Revolution was in the 18th century.
    • It is almost certain to lead to material shifts in the geo-political balance of power, and in a way never comprehended previously.
    • The specter of digital colonization looms large with AGI-based power centers being based in a few specific locations. Consequently, AGI-driven disruption could precipitate the dawn of the age of digital colonialism.
    • This would lead to a new form of exploitation, viz., data exploitation. In its most egregious form, it would entail the export of raw data and import of value-added products that use this data.
    • In short, AGI-based concentration of power would have eerie similarities to the old East India Company syndrome.

Way Forward:

  • We could possibly be at the cusp of an ‘Oppenheimer Moment,’ when the world is at a crossroads in the science of computing, communicating, and engineering, and the ethics of a new technology whose power and potential we do not fully comprehend.
  • Reining in, or even halting, the development of the most advanced forms of AGI, or disallowing unfettered experimentation with the technology may not be easy, but the alternative is that it has the potential to shape the nature of the world in a manner well beyond what can be anticipated.

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