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Issue Articles

Broad and Shallow AI

The promise and perils of competence without comprehension
Trained on our mega digital footprint, Large Language Models ‘imitate’ human behaviour and can provide ‘plausible’ completion of any text prompt. Some are optimistic about AI reaching general human intelligence; others are terrified by the potential misuses.

Disinformation: A New Type of State-Sponsored Violence

While attempts by the ruling party to control the media and the messaging are not new in India, what we see now is the use of new technology to ‘curate’ and exercise ‘centralised control’ to spread disinformation in order to harass and intimidate critics.

Digital Currency: Fog Beyond the Hype

What are digital and cryptocurrencies? Why is there so much hype about this new form of digital money? Will it threaten the hegemony of paper money? A detailed explainer in the context of recent policy explorations in India on a Central Bank Digital Currency.

How Netflix Affects What We Watch and Who We Are

"Algorithm recommendations help us find exactly what we like in an incomprehensible number of options. The question is: who decides what the labels are, what gets put into these boxes and, therefore, what we end up watching, listening to and reading?"

Digital ID: A Single Source of Truth

The push worldwide to give everyone a legal identity was to allow people better access to financial and public services. But this endeavour has quickly morphed into promoting Digital IDs that are increasingly used for surveillance and control.

Artificial Intelligence and its Discontents-I

Artificial Intelligence has exploded onto the world in recent years. Part-I of this review essay examines the nature and implications of contemporary AI. Next week, Part-II will address the multiple crises engendered by AI's rapid and widespread deployment.

Artificial Intelligence and its Discontents-II

'Apart from enhancing the powers of surveillance & control by the state, AI is being deployed by powerful corporations in an era of unprecedented influence of capital & stratospheric levels of economic inequality.' The concluding part of a review essay on AI.

The Global Minimum Corporate Tax: Not High Enough, Not Fair Enough

‘While the global minimum tax proposal is a step forward, that step is disappointingly short of what is needed and possible.’

The Pegasus Case Must be Used to Press for Change in Surveillance Laws

To ensure comprehensive privacy for all Indians, we need to generate public pressure to make the Government of India reform the existing framework for surveillance and introduce a data protection bill in Parliament that is much tighter than the current draft.

WhatsApp in India

A Tale of Big Tech, Privacy Violation and Government Control
The ongoing tussle between the Indian government and social media companies has compromised the data integrity & privacy of citizens. We need an ecosystem of innovation and regulation to keep in check the unrestricted data powers of Silicon Valley giants.

Learning from the Mumbai 'Model'

Decentralisation and data analytics in dealing with the pandemic
The success of the ‘Mumbai Model’ in managing the second wave of the pandemic shows the importance of decentralisation, and the salience of involving a wide range of stakeholders and relying on data analytics.

Vulnerabilities in the EVM-VVPAT Process

The Potential Threat to the Integrity of Elections
The 'jugaad'-like manner in which the VVPAT-machine has been inserted into India's electronic voting process has endangered security; the process safeguards that were earlier designed to protect EVMs are now of little value.

Designed to Paralyse

India’s New Rules for Digital News Publications
A government that does not see value in independent media has brought in rules for digital news publications, which, in the garb of introducing self-regulation, are designed to stifle vibrant and critical voices, and open the door to government interference.

Ruptured Reality

Fact-checks and counter-checks in the truth trade
In the Indian mediascape, every mechanism through which fact is sifted from falsehood has become questionable. If news organisations do not have an ethical commitment towards factual reporting, fact-checking risks turning into mere performance.

The Digital Panopticon and How It Is Fuelled by Personal Data

Our phones are continuously leaking data about who we are, where we are, what we read, what we buy, and a lot more. The data is being collected with and without our consent. It is sold for profit; more dangerously it can be used to modify our behaviour.

The Digital Panopticon and How It Is Fuelled by Personal Data–II

Personal data is being extracted and shared by private and state agencies; facial recognition is being used by governments to profile their citizens. What should we do and can we demand to resist this onslaught of surveillance that has been enabled by tech?

Ambivalences of 'Creep'

Citizenship, Personhood and the Second Digital Turn
As autonomous ‘citizens’ capable of acting on the responsibilities that go with Constitutional rights have been technologically replaced by populations to be ‘managed’, what we see is the populist abstraction of the ‘people’ being used against actual people.

Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the 75th Anniversary of ‘Nuclear Peace’

'Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds’. Physicist Robert Oppenheimer recalled these lines from the Gita after watching the first nuclear test in July 1945. With the world now sitting on a huge nuclear stockpile, can we hope to avoid that destruction?

Situating the Biology of Covid-19

A Conversation on Disease and Democracy
‘Struggles for a more just, fair, inclusive, or caring politics in the time of Covid-19, need to be grounded in the everyday work of building institutions, supporting the vulnerable amongst us, and cultivating a deeper ethic of mutuality.’

Consent and Privacy in the Age of Digital Technology

When Big Data reigns and the economy relies on mass surveillance and data collection, will humans end up as Pavlov’s dogs? Taking back control of our data will require rebuilding digital technologies to make them compatible with greater democratic control.

Crowdsourcing “Knowledge”

Troll Armies and the Attack on Science & History
The brazen articulation of weird ideas is now a mass phenomenon. These ideas reveal an ignorance of elementary science & history, yet have wide traction & lethal consequences. Why has 'fake news' taken deep root? Can we do anything to reverse this moment?

The Computer Infection of Kudankulam and its Implications

The October 2019 cyberattack on a computer system at the Kudankulam nuclear power plant points to new pathways to severe accidents that can result in widespread radioactive fallout. Attempts to lower this risk would further increase the cost of nuclear power.

Skilling the Last First

"Our skill ecosystem has to be flexible and inclusive as this can be crucial to overturn the social constructions of worth in a society that is ridden with inequalities."
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