Need for Artificial Intelligence Literacy

Need for Artificial Intelligence Literacy

In October 2020, during the RAISE 2020 event, the Honorable Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi in his address brought out the need for our collective responsibility to ensure trust in how AI is used. Algorithm transparency is key to establishing this trust. In his address, he further called out the need to protect the world against weaponization of AI by non-state actors. When we look at this message, we get to understand the important need for AI literacy.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is growing rapidly and expected to significantly impact on the societal advancement shortly. We see some Robots use AI, in fact in some movies like Terminator or RoboCop or Robot 2.0 where Robots having full set of cognitive abilities with ability to think like human, emotion intelligence and ability to act to a situation with its own learning and intelligence.  During the Covid-19 we have seen the critical role of AI and robotics in areas like healthcare; tracing and supply chain that have all created a lot of positive impact for people to live in the new order. It is important to understand that Artificial Intelligence if not leveraged correctly can do more harm to the humanity and society overall.

As AI grows more sophisticated and ubiquitous, there are many risks that threaten its negative impact on society and humanity at large, some difficult to control if it goes out of hand.  AI can support automation which could result in job losses and similarly with connected intelligence can enable extreme personalization that can result in individual privacy violations. We are seeing threats of deepfake AI that can also create privacy violations, misleading people with information through fake content, algorithmic bias caused by bad data, socioeconomic inequality, weapons automatization all of which can be extremely destructive and, in some situations, difficult to control.

So, while on one side we have the threat to disruption and destruction with AI and on another side, we are aware on the important role of AI in public safety or agriculture or healthcare like we have seen in Covid-19 management.

There is a need for integrated artificial intelligence literacy program to be designed and imparted to all sections of the society in every sphere of life. This requires having a framework to educate people, having policies and regulation. It will require government, education institutions, industries and social organisations to educate and make people literate on artificial intelligence in terms of its development and use. It will require education in human values to impart the collective responsibility to ensure trust in how AI is used.

Sri Sathya Sai Baba; Founder Chancellor of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning emphasized on human values as core to the human development and technology if not applied correctly will be a tricknology bringing harm to the humanity and the world. “The state of the whole world depends on human activity. When the actions of the people are noble, the country is equally noble. The people’s behaviour and conduct depend on their thoughts. Thoughts depend on the mind. Good thoughts are the basis of human values”.  Thus, Artificial Intelligence requires a human-centric approach with Head, Heart, and Hands of Transformation.

We have seen technologies like Nuclear energy or automotive or aerospace have invoked ethical, political and social discussions and policies framed to control these technologies. The context of AI has to be understood and defined clearly and shape the societal advancement with necessary rules, regulation and law.

In the application of AI, we need to ask questions in terms of:

What we should do with these systems; does it create value and benefit the society; what are the type of individuals who should be involved in the development and use of this technology; what the system’s capability that can be allowed with respect to the machine’s cognitive abilities and how much the system themselves should be allowed to do; what level of trusts need to be designed for the system; what risks are involved and how we can control and mitigate the risks like-wise many concerning questions require to be discussed and addressed in Artificial Intelligence. If rightly used, will be a boon to humanity, and if misused can become a tricknology that is harmful to society.

Defining AI literacy

“India should soon become a global hub for AI”, says PM Modi. If this needs to be accomplished then we need make our society AI literate where people of all sections of the society can understand and appreciate the AI technology in terms of it use, design and development., To define AI literacy we need to debate, discuss, design and define a framework that can call India an AI literate society. Some steps are initiated in defining and educating the consumers, enterprises and government bodies.

The areas of focus to build AI literacy could include:

Awareness of AI Policy – There have been discussions about AI ethics, technology policy for use, regulations and law, Governments, Institutions etc. have been sharing thought papers and white papers in recent years. Recent times, many governments globally have called out their AI policy.  

For example, in Tamil Nadu we have the “Tamil Nadu Safe & Ethical Artificial Intelligence Policy 2020” that is a state level AI Policy that prudently weighs the pros and cons of AI and guides the policy makers accordingly. The latest EU policy document suggests “trustworthy AI” should be lawful, ethical, and technically robust, and then spells this out as seven requirements: human oversight, technical robustness, privacy and data governance, transparency, fairness, well-being, and accountability.

Trust and Safety with AI – Connected intelligence with emerging technologies like AI, Edge, IoT brings across extreme personalization but it also brings intrusiveness and can violate privacy and safety. It is important to be literate on the data and information usage privileges and distribution. It will help in trust and safety of individuals and prevent anarchy and exploitation. The digital lifestyle brings massive data from devices and wearables and AI enables intelligent data collection and analysis to support areas like surveillance, to track and trace in business or regulatory agencies. Also, there is inputs from voice and facial recognition systems.  Three is a need to provide guidance and educate people in privacy and safety, bring across the rights and responsibilities of individuals and enterprises or the government in right to access and correct use of data. Which systems to trust, how the systems are compliant, do’s and don’ts, enforcement of regulation etc are critical part of the education.

Manipulation of Behaviour with AI – The data and information collected and processed can be used to manipulate behaviour especially seen in social media. In areas like digital marketing or gambling the manipulation of behaviour is seen with use of legal means exploit biases or deceive the consumer. This brings new vulnerabilities in terms of manipulation and deception to individuals who are targeted and misled. So, what constitutes this manipulation, how to read the manipulation of behaviour, how to be aware and judge are important areas to learn and become literate. 

Data Ethics and Automated AI – Opacity and bias are core issues seen in AI. There are issues seen in terms of the system taking a bias decision. In a virtual environment with virtual advisor, it is not possible to get a view for the impacted individuals in terms why the system came with a biased output, also probable the system machine learned and gave its output thus it will be opaque and the pattern unclear. So, it is important to be literate in terms of data ethics and automated AI in decision making; mechanism to double-check and validate.

Human-Robot Interaction - We have seen Xinhua News that has AI anchor that can read texts as naturally as a professional news anchor. So, more areas will have Human-Robot interaction with Robot having cognitive abilities and it can be very deceptive in the whole interaction with humans. AI can manipulate humans and also drive robots to deceive and threaten human dignity. So, it is important to understand and be literate on the human-robot interaction.

Automation – Automation in jobs and weapon automatization can be another challenging area to understand with the role of Drones and Robotics starting to play a critical role, we will have AI as critical component in this space and this requires AI systems are modelled with the right responsibility in handling; thus this requires us to be literate and educate ourselves and be able to complement effectively

The above are some areas to focus in AI literacy.


As technology is getting the necessary push in the government and industry to focus, one of the key challenges is inadequate or limited understanding of the application of the AI technology in the societal advancement. Responsible use of AI requires human values as fundamental in making the society and people literate on AI.

In conclusion, while we know that AI is growing rapidly there is a need to have AI literacy programs to educate all sections of the society. We may need “code of ethics” for AI engineers and AI Ethics & Human Values programs offered across all degree courses to create that literacy. We will require workshops, seminars, diploma or certification course for AI literacy to be spread so that people across all sections quickly become aware not only on the technology but also the areas related to legal, regulatory compliances, policies etc to be able to handle the AI technology for the societal advancement



About the Author

L Ganeshkumar is currently the Consulting Partner & 5G Solution Head, Wipro Ltd. He has 25 years of global IT experience in solution sales, consulting, practice & delivery in industry verticals viz. Communications & Media; Banking & Insurance.