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Indian Express

5- January-2024

1. Reshaped by AI

Topic: GS2 – Governance, GS3– Science and Technology- Effects of S&T in everyday life.
This topic is not much relevant in the context of Prelims but more for Mains in the context of global initiatives, ethical considerations, international cooperation, governance challenges, and the impact of artificial intelligence on democracy and security.
  • The world is coping with the fallout from the turbulent events of 2023, which were characterised by regional conflicts, civil unrest, and undeniable anthropogenic devastation, against the backdrop of intensive global political manoeuvring.
  • Amid this mayhem, many groups around the world—technocrats, ecocrats, and bureaucrats, among others are covertly formulating plans that could lead to improved human rights in the future.
  • The Report of the High-Level Committee on Programmes and the High-Level Committee on Management, which focuses on the use and governance of AI and associated frontier technologies, is one noteworthy project.
  • Building on previous attempts within the UN system to set guidelines for the moral use of AI, this joint session was held by UNICEF in October 2023.
UN’s Ethical Framework for AI:
  • In 2019, the UN started working on “frontier technologies” and AI, creating a roadmap and strategic framework for building AI capabilities.
  • Key guidelines for the moral application of AI inside the UN system were established in a 2019 UNESCO proclamation, which placed an emphasis on concepts including respect for human rights, ecological sustainability, diversity, inclusivity, good governance, and just development.
  • The groundwork for incorporating these ideas into the UN’s AI policy is laid by the recommendation of a system-wide normative and operational framework for the moral application of AI.
Challenges to Ethical AI Implementation:
  • Despite these initiatives, the growing notion of “digital sovereignty” cannot be ignored in discussions about the moral application of AI.
  • Digital sovereignty, which is essential to the cross-border, multilayer regulation of artificial intelligence, is progressively replacing the idea of territorial sovereignty.
  • Concerns over how to stop these problems in governance and development to guarantee truth and responsibility are raised by the difficulties, which include the spread of hate speech, false information, and disinformation.
Threats to Privacy and Democracy:
  • The dangers that artificial intelligence (AI) tools offer to decision-making and information privacy have been brought to light by experts.
  • These tools have the ability to influence the foundations and mechanisms of democracy.
  • They stress that the main purpose of AI at the moment is to gather personal data and build intricate behavioural profiles, which could compromise autonomy, privacy, and anonymity.
  • To stop the erosion of democracy and privacy, immediate action at the national, regional, and international levels is required.
Digital Empires and Regulatory Models:
  • The US and China are still at odds over digital issues, which highlights the rise of three separate “digital empires.”
  • According to expert analysis, the US adopts a free digital model that emphasises the autonomy of the AI sector and lets the free market choose how content is produced.
  • Conversely, democratic countries are becoming concerned about China’s state-driven regulatory paradigm, which is characterised by control over private AI companies and surveillance.
  • A few democracies already in existence start to favour the EU as a preferred model because it is perceived as offering a more human-centric digital economy.
Uncertain Future of Technopolitics:
  • Technopolitics faces an uncertain future as rival models like digital authoritarianism, surveillance capitalism, and liberal democratic values compete for supremacy.
  • The human rights-based approach is given priority in the EU’s Declaration on Development, which further complicates the already difficult situation.
  • Which foundation—surveillance capitalism, digital authoritarianism, or liberal democratic values will influence social interaction and human interaction in the rapidly developing digital era is still up for debate.
  • AI in Warfare and Humanitarian Concerns:
  • AI in combat takes a sinister turn as deadly autonomous weaponry systems transform the battlefield.
  • The US Defence Department’s acronym for lethal autonomous weapons, or LAWs, represents the total reliance of unmanned systems on machine learning.
  • This has led to worries regarding the dehumanisation of warfare and potential setbacks for international humanitarian law.
  • As per experts it is important to “humanise” AI applications in both civil and military situations in order to avoid irreparable repercussions.
  • The intricate relationships between the dynamics of world politics, ethical issues in the development of AI, and the changing terrain of digital sovereignty highlight the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead for establishing a future that strikes a balance between ethical requirements and technological achievements.
What is Artificial Intelligence?
  • The ability of computers and systems to learn, apply information, and engage in intelligent behaviour is known as artificial intelligence (AI).
  • The term “Artificial Intelligence” was coined by John McCarthy, an American computer scientist and cognitive scientist. He was one of the founders of the discipline of AI.
  • It includes technologies like machine learning, Deep Learning, Big Data, Neural Networks, Computer vision, Large Language Models etc.
  • The capacity for reasoning and making decisions that maximise the likelihood of accomplishing a given objective is the ideal quality of artificial intelligence. 
PYQ: Introduce the concept of Artificial Intelligence (AI). How does AI help clinical diagnosis? Do you perceive any threat to privacy of the individual in the use of Al in healthcare? (150 words/10m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2023)
Practice Question: Discuss the evolving landscape of global governance in the context of artificial intelligence, focusing on the recent UN initiatives and ethical frameworks. Analyze the challenges posed by the concept of “digital sovereignty” and its implications for international relations. (250 words/15 m)


Topic: GS3 – Agriculture- Issues related to Direct & indirect farm subsidies 
This topic is not much relevant in the context of Prelims but more for Mains in the context of issues related to MSP, import policies, and the challenges faced by farmers cultivating oilseeds and pulses, which are essential components of the agricultural landscape.
  • Farmers in India who grow oilseeds and pulses face discrimination in policy from two sources: differences in import regulations and the perceived insufficiency of Minimum Support Prices (MSP).
  • In contrast to crops like rice, wheat, and sugarcane, where MSP is mostly guaranteed by the government through direct procurement or mill payments, oilseeds and pulses encounter difficulties because MSP is primarily defined on paper.
  • Crucially, import duty policies lead to imbalances that affect the competitiveness of crops grown domestically.
  • The analysis that follows dives into these problems, examining the implications for the economy, issues with self-sufficiency, and the disregard for research and development in these important agricultural industries.
Minimum Support Prices (MSP) Disparities:
  • The inadequate MSP for oilseeds and pulses constitutes the first layer of policy discrimination.
  • Farmers that grow rice, wheat, and sugarcane benefit financially from the MSP, but those who grow mustard and chickpeas find that their produce sells for less than the MSP.
  • The article highlights the financial difficulties that farmers face as a result, as current market prices in Rajasthan and Maharashtra fall short of the MSP.
  • The impending crop marketing puts additional financial hardship on many farmers.
Import Policies and Imbalances:
  • Import policies are the foundation of the second aspect of discrimination.
  • The impact of import duties on agricultural competitiveness is noteworthy.
  • Specifically, wheat, milled rice, and sugar are subject to large duties, whereas most pulses, crude palm, soybean, and sunflower oil are imported duty-free.
  • Concerns over the independence of India’s local production are raised by the article, which highlights the consequent increase in imports of edible oil.
  • The intricacies of import regulations are examined in this section, along with their effects on farmers and the agricultural industry at large.
Edible Oil Imports and Self-Sufficiency Challenges:
  • When the imports of edible oil are closely examined, they show a consistent rise from 11.6 million to 16.5 million tonnes, or $16.7 billion, between 2013–14 and 2022–2023.
  • This increase suggests that self-sufficiency may face difficulties, a worry that becomes more pressing as the Modi administration adopts a more pro-consumer rather than pro-producer position.
  • The ramifications of this change are discussed in the analysis, especially in light of the impending national elections.
  • Research and Development Neglect:
  • In research and development, oilseeds and pulses which are essential to Indian agriculture are given less attention than crops like wheat, rice, and sugarcane.
  • This official disinterest is further demonstrated by the rejection of approval for genetically modified technologies.
  • The ramifications of this kind of neglect are examined in the article, with a focus on the pulse industry, where modest advances have hampered the total growth potential of these crops.
Advocating Policy Correction:
  • Concerns about current MSP and procurement practices that primarily benefit a small number of crops are being voiced by several government agencies.
  • The article proposes a change to more market-oriented strategies, like per-acre income transfers, and calls for the rectification of market inefficiencies brought about by MSP-based policies.
  • In order to foster a more equitable framework that supports farmers and resolves the discrepancies encountered by those who cultivate oilseeds and pulses, the final part makes a major policy adjustment proposal.
  • The hardships faced by Indian farmers who grow pulses and oilseeds highlight how urgently policy changes are needed.
  • There are many obstacles to overcome, including differences in import and minimum support prices as well as a lack of investment in research and development.
  • It is critical to take prompt remedial action, including moving towards market-oriented strategies, to protect farmer welfare and the long-term viability of India’s agriculture industry.
What is the Minimum Support Price?
  • The guaranteed sum that farmers receive when the government purchases their produce is known as the MSP.
  • The Commission on Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP), which takes into account a number of variables like production costs, supply and demand, market price trends, intercrop price parity, etc., provides recommendations that serve as the foundation for MSP.
  • Attached to the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare is the CACP office. It was established in January of 1965.
  • The ultimate decision (approval) about MSPs is made by the Indian Prime Minister’s Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA).
PYQ: What do you mean by Minimum Support Price (MSP)? How will MSP rescue the farmers from the low-income trap? (150 words/10m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2018)
Practice Question: Examine the role of Minimum Support Prices (MSP) and import policies in shaping the economic challenges faced by farmers cultivating oilseeds and pulses in India. (150 words/10 m)

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