By Bal Ram Singh, PhD
Artificial intelligence (AI) is being used as the buzzword these days, a lot of it for the ease of data management, extraction of information, some of which may be used to enhance one’s knowledge, and hope to develop wisdom to run one’s life meaningfully under any and all circumstances. However, there could be sinister designs as well in using the data at very large scales, and, with their disruptive capabilities even countries may be brought to their knees.
Rajiv Malhotra, author of the book, Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Power, and a good friend sounded the alarm bell, as follows: “The AI-based concentration of power has taken on a terrifying new aspect. When we think of global power, countries like the US, China, and Russia readily come to mind But today, private companies are accumulating immense power based on their ability to leverage AI and big data as tools to influence, manipulate and even control the minds of people….. , their unprecedented knowledge of people and things around the world, coupled with their ability to disrupt and alter the physical world and manipulate people’s choices, will lead to a new nexus of power. Such companies will decide who will, and who will not, be given access to this new form of power, and on what terms.”
That is, of course, a power game for political and economic gain, but such a capacity of AI could become a disruptive machine for other areas in the society as well. Education is one of those areas that innately depends on knowledge, mostly from books. Textbooks are used for most of the classes one takes, in schools as well as universities. Books are the source of knowledge, and in most subjects other than science and engineering, those are the only sources of knowledge. That knowledge is now available on fingertips through AI. Having practical knowledge is, of course, entirely another beast.
An education system that prepares the Brahmachari to be one’s own, there is no AI that can ever make its clone. It is simply because every tiniest particle, atom, molecule, man, or mountain is ever a clone of another one. Anyone telling us otherwise or making us believe is getting our nod to be artificially intellicized.
An AI can only read patterns when repeated, in reality nothing can be truly repeated, and a Brahmachari being trained in creativity will never repeat things, as the Brahmachari will always be in tune with time and space. A true teacher, mentor, or Guru will never expect, let alone require, a student, mentee, or disciple to follow her/him. The trainees are always trained to follow their own uniqueness to attain that no one else can attain.
This issue reminded me of a classroom story from my Biochemistry II course (CHM 512) I taught in the 1991-1992 academic session at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. I had a student by the name of FenNi Fu, who was also my first PhD research student, obviously working closely with me on research projects in the lab. As a beginning faculty, which is true even now though, I used to share my enthusiasm for conducting scientific experiments, talking about how science works, how we need to think and raise questions, and how to explain them to relate with other researchers and the public. I always like to create a resonance with students and colleagues so that they also communicate their thoughts and enhance the outcomes synergistically.
FenNi was also a quite outspoken person. Anything that came to her mind, it reached her lips and vocal cords emphatically. When I administered the mid-term exam for that course in the Spring of 1992, FenNi scored the highest marks of 98 out of 100. It goes without saying that she was ecstatic, as the exam was tough (some students scored in 50s!), and I was of course pleased with her performance, but she was bubbling with her achievement, and wanted to share her thoughts on how really prepared and scored such high marks in my course. Without even me asking, she said, “I can read your mind”. That made sense, given she worked closely with me.
When the time for finals came, FenNi scored only 68, I think. She came to me uttering despondently, “I don’t know how this happened?” I said I know. She anxiously asked, how? I said, I changed my mind (LoL!).
Therefore, there is a way to go around this AI mania, just retain your brahmacharya training of being creative and resist the urge to follow someone’s patronized pattern. Be well, and let the AI go to hell!
Balram Singh is a Professor and the President of the Institute of Advanced Sciences, Dartmouth, Massachusetts, researching Ayurveda, Yoga, Vedic education, and Vedic social and political traditions. He is also an adjunct faculty at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi.