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Conversations about AI (Artificial Intelligence) are often met with confusion as there is no concrete definition for it. If you’ve dismissed AI in the past, there are two main reasons to start taking it seriously. Firstly, the software is improving at a remarkable pace. Problems that confused researchers for decades finally have solutions. Secondly, and more importantly, AI technology will become pervasive. AI aims to transform business processes drastically, and its effects will be magnified in the next decade when retail, finance, law, healthcare and other professional sectors inevitably convert their technological frameworks from core processors to machine learning.
The concept of AI (artificial intelligence) has evolved over time but the core is the creation of machines that “think like humans”. Machines that just complete simple tasks are considered outdated and developers are aiming to create machines that can plan, think, and reason, often autonomously.
AI was created to increase productivity by decreasing work load, the need for tech experts, and as a direct result – cost. The implementation of AI will reduce time and costs significantly with intelligent assistants replacing humans in mundane tasks like data entry and answering emails.
As its name suggests, Narrow (sometimes known as weak) AI simply refers to artificial intelligence which perform a narrow task, for instance, internet searches or facial recognition. Siri and Alexa are weak AI programs that often have programmed responses. On the other hand, AGI (Artificial General Intelligence) or strong AI is more like a brain in the sense that AGI has multiple programmed responses. The long-term goal for countless researchers is to develop something that can outperform humans at every cognitive task – AGI.
While AI will not replace all jobs, it is certain that it will change the nature of work. Employees who should feel threatened are those that do repetitive, routine tasks as AI programs are especially adept at doing these repetitive, routine tasks. However, the specific types of jobs that will be erased by AI, at least in the short-term, remains a mystery.
We can, however, get an idea of what future AI functions will replace. For example, Amazon is leading the way in AI development with the creation of a cashier-free supermarket in Seattle which begs the question: What will this mean for the 3.4million cashiers in the US?
Following every technological shift, new jobs will be created to replace those lost. Unfortunately, it is not known what these new roles are because AI is constantly being improved. So how do we, as humans, keep up to intelligent machines?
Luckily, this is something most current professionals won’t have to worry about because even though it is being developed at an exponential rate, Oxford University has estimated that it will take another 120 years before AI begins to automate the vast majority of human jobs. This is reinforced by the Deloitte’s 2017 study Artificial Intelligence for the Real World with only 22% of 250 executives surveyed arguing that AI will reduce head count.
Although, they have expressed that AI will undoubtedly enhance the features, functions, and performances of their products, AI will also help employees by optimising internal business allowing professionals to work on more creative tasks.
The public has certainly overestimated the development of these machines and the lack of experts in the field is a major obstacle. There are just over 300,000 AI engineers worldwide, but according to market demand, there are millions of roles waiting to be filled. However, attendance in AI and machine learning courses has skyrocketed in recent years, with the US, China, Japan and UK leading the way. Despite this, in the short-term AI integration remains extremely costly because expert in-house talent must be recruited to integrate long term AI projects.
Legislation, which has failed to keep up with the speed of technological progress, is also likely to become a major obstacle. Artificial intelligence often relies on innumerable pieces of personal data to make calculative decisions, however the access of artificial intelligence to such personal data seems to directly contradict recent legislative efforts to protect the personal data of consumers..
One example is the GDPR, which was created to give consumers control over their data. Provisions within the regulation give EU consumers the right to an explanation for the collection and usage of personal data from companies who do so. However it can be difficult to explain the manner in which consumer is collected or used by AI programs without disclosing highly confidential information about the computing functions of the AI program or the company's business model.
As advanced technologies pervade workplaces, skills such as problem solving and creativity are more important than ever. Leading companies have also recognised that AI technology is here to work alongside humans, not to replace them.
How we work in the future will be more team-based, more collaborative and involve more real-time communication, workplaces will be revolutionised, and not everyone is going to be comfortable at first. Creating a supportive environment is crucial to adoption.