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KARACHI: A Pakistan expert on artificial intelligence engineering, Dr Masood Mehmood Khan, has said that it is necessary to build Pakistan as a technology-savvy and artificial intelligence-ready nation to meet the future challenges.

Masood Mehmood Khan, a fellow of Higher Education Academy (UK) presently working with the faculty of science and engineering at Curtin University in Perth, Australia said that artificial intelligence is an unprecedented form of revolution. It has changed and will continue to change the way we think, work, live and interact with the world around. It is taking over local, national and international businesses. It has changed streets, towns, cities, and countries. It has changed the modes and modalities of interactions between nations, groups, families and individuals, he said.

He said no other revolution was so deep, so rapid and so radical. The Artificial Intelligence (AI) revolution is gradually making everyone realizes it's a new world and we now live in the AI age. He said Pakistan cannot stay outside this new world and needs to get ready for it.

Dr Khan said it seems tragic to see how a general lack of understanding of AI is damaging the less and underdeveloped societies all around the globe. In many continents, policymakers are not fully aware of the implications and intricacies of AI-supported applications. People in developing and even in some so-called developed countries do not see how AI can affect their personal, social, financial and national interest. For example, businesses in developing countries are unable to protect their data, marketing policies, business transactions, employees' information and customer details. Individuals are unable to understand how a predator application would intrude in their daily lives and decision-making processes.

He said even some governments are unable to realise why their citizens are becoming more and more critical of their own values, culture and norms. At this point in time, AI has no ethical, legal or societal restrictions. Almost all genres of AI systems are now visible in our daily lives.

Dr Khan said in journalism we see supervised learning supported classifiers and regression systems classifying news, events and people and predicting trajectories of future events. In clinical investigations we see unsupervised learning supported clustering and labelling systems diagnosing diseases and recommending medications. In education, industry and transportation sectors, we see reinforced learning supported systems including deep neural networks and robotic applications learning from their own failures and successes.

He said AI is now visible in all walks of human life and in many cases is able to outperform humans. Consequently, paralegal and legal support systems are being used for assessing criminal records and suspect's intentions. In medical applications, AI systems are far more efficient than humans in pathology-based diagnosis of diseases. Some of the applications in psychology and psychiatry take less time than a human expert to assess emotions, intentions and social behaviours.

He said the nature and scope of military applications of AI is not limited to assessing threats and following targets. All aspects of a war, studying enemy psychology to regimental movements, air defence to underwater surveillance and tank manoeuvrability design to aircraft readiness are heavily dependent on AI. Engineers take advantage in using engineering applications that can configure industrial facilities. Historians and anthropologists use AI applications for examining video contents, assessing the accuracies of reports and their interpretations and validating the carbon dates.

Dr Khan said the organizations like OECD, European Union and ASEAN are now working toward developing some kind of boundaries and limits but such organizations know very well that AI is neither visible nor palpable. Scientists are looking for a refuge in what is referred to as Explainable Artificial Intelligence (XAI) to being able to understand and justify AI systems' decision-making processes.

However, the issues of accountability, accuracy and explainability, says Dr Khan, are so convoluted that even the AI experts do not find it easy define a socially responsible and ethical AI system. He said for Pakistan to survive as a respectable and modern nation, we must prepare to avoid the underlying threats and reap the benefits of this ubiquitous AI revolution. Though late, we can still develop an appropriate AI vision and strategies confidently enter the emerging AI world.

Dr Khan said to begin with, Pakistan needs to embrace a sectorial approach and focus on the most crucial sectors like people and society; national defence; agriculture; commerce; healthcare, and civil administration and services. He said any nation or society cannot afford leaving the knowledge and understanding of AI to mathematicians, computer scientists and programmers. It is inevitable now for our policymakers to work toward building Pakistan as an AI-ready nation.

Dr Khan suggested that as a first step, we need to incorporate basic knowledge of AI in our high school curricula and add AI for beginners as a subject of study in grades XI and XII. This could be sequence of two light yet compulsory subjects, each carrying fifty marks. Students must be required to score at least 60 percent marks for passing them.

The grade XI course should introduce theory and familiarise students with terminologies and applications. The grade XII course should require students to build a system and demonstrate a capacity to apply knowledge for solving a simple real-life problem such as examining an image or diagnosing an electrical fault.

He hoped that following these two courses, students in all undergraduate degree programs should continue studying existing and emerging applications of AI in their respective disciples. A committee of subject experts and AI gurus should be formed for developing contents of undergraduate level courses in each major discipline taught at undergraduate levels.

He said leaving the AI knowledge confined to computing professionals will be detrimental to the development of our nation. As we lag behind the developed nations in AI-readiness, adding an out of the box educational and pedagogical approach must be adopted to be able to survive. He said we should try to develop a meta-level approach and a pseudo roadmap for addressing needs of the all major sectors of Pakistan.

Dr Masood Khan said realising our exigent AI needs, the government or its responsible entities must solicit expertise from various academic, professional and governmental bodies for identifying the most important aspects of each of the aforementioned sectors. Once the inputs from experts and beneficiaries are collated, the most critical aspects of each sector requiring immediate attention in terms of achieving AI-readiness should be determined. This will help in developing a set of priorities for each sector of our society - form high to low.

He said once the priorities are established for each sector the government or will be able to develop taskforces comprising of academics, expert users and facilitators to develop specific and achievable short-, medium- and long-term objectives for their respective sectors. Each taskforce may begin by identifying national and international entities to work toward achieving certain sets of objectives.

Dr Khan said these steps should logically lead toward engaging national and international entities for implementing an AI vision and getting Pakistan ready for the AI age.


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