Are regulations a boon or bane for tech?

Google CEO’s pitch to regulate AI has stirred up a debate among industry leaders

January 25, 2020 10:13 pm | Updated January 27, 2020 10:02 am IST - NEW DELHI

Amid renewed debates over regulation of newer technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), the Indian tech industry is of the view that while some regulations may be needed to keep a check on tech , putting up too many barriers may stifle innovation. This comes in the aftermath of Google CEO Sundar Pichai pitching for regulation of artificial intelligence, in a recent article in a financial daily,

In a discussion with The Hindu on ‘Tech in 2020s’, Nasscom senior vice-president and chief strategy officer Sangeeta Gupta said, “From Nasscom’s perspective, you have to give some time for these technologies to mature before you start regulating, because if you start coming up with AI ethics policies, even before AI becomes a little more mainstream, you’re going to potentially create an environment where many of these things don’t even take off. The regulatory sandbox approach that is being suggested is one good way to think about newer technologies.”

Jagdish Mitra, chief strategy officer and head of growth at Tech Mahindra, pointed out that one can only regulate something when one has an assessment of ‘good’ or ‘bad’. “Who’s deciding whether this is good for the society or bad for the society? Will people, who have not experienced it, sitting in courtrooms, decide, or will the common citizen?”

Stating that he sees regulations becoming sort of a citizen charter in the future, Mr. Mitra said that governments would have to create a mechanism to listen to stakeholders.

“Starting from a place where you’re always worried that this will only do bad, is the wrong way to start. You’ll have to start from a point that says that this can do good. Therefore when it starts to act itself out, you will have a set of people raising their voice.”

Dharmender Kapoor, CEO, Birlasoft, said regulations were needed because they act like brakes in a car. “Brakes allow us to run the car at a high speed as we have the confidence that we can stop the car using them. So regulations should be seen in that light...I don’t think we should see this as anything negative. Otherwise, the same technology could be used for electricity generation, or bombing a country.”

Ms. Gupta, however, added that “too many barriers” should not be put up. “Regulation is important, but this should be done as part of a consultative process. You need to allow technology to mature, keep having those discussions, understand their impact and then think of regulation.”

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