AI and Pakistan are not moving together

Artificial intelligence being the buzzword these days, everyone considers it incumbent upon them to comment on the rise of AI and the dangers, perceived or otherwise, posed by it without being cognizant of the technical details.
A case in point is the article ‘Promoting AI’ (April 17). Apparently, the article was penned with the intention of giving some background knowledge regarding the initiatives taken during the government that was led by the Nawaz faction of Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) before 2018, including the establishment of national centres of excellence, especially in the domain of AI.
Having been part of the centre and leading a laboratory working on medical image processing and having won other funding in the same domain where AI is used to diagnose diseases through medical images, one can vouch for the lack of knowledge and under-standing of AI on the part of the writer concerned.
Despite advancements in AI and its manifestation in the form of ChatGPT, it is still in its early stages of development. Currently, very few domains are being extensively explored by AI experts due to various reasons, such as lack of human resources, lack of computational resources, which invariably are expensive, and, above all, the lack of available datasets that are the cornerstone of the development of AI pipelines.
Ignored also is the fact that ChatGPT requires the use of at least 20,000 A100 GPUs with a capacity of five peta flops, where each one of them costs around $200,000. Such an exorbitant cost makes it the preserve of only a selected few.
It should also be remembered that it was developed in the United States, which has mastered both the software and hardware aspects of AI, and no other country can boast of matching its computational power as of now. Coming back to the scene in Pakistan, with its failing economy and with structural changes required, emerging technologies, such as AI, provide a beacon of hope to earn some hard cash. We have made great strides over the last few years, but relevant technical resources are not much to write home about. On top of that, we have great dearth of the required hardware resources, and finances available are miniscule both from the public as well as the private sector.
We still have to go a long way before any meaningful progress can even begin to take place, and that requires concerted efforts from all, including the government, the private sector, the academia and the entrepreneurs. However, any initiative taken by the government for the advancement of AI must have input from AI technical experts as well as people from other walks of life where the latter can probably shed more light on the ethical aspects of it. Right now what we have in the country has more of the ‘artificial’ than the ‘intelligence’ part of AI.

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