Artificial Intelligence is widely being recognized as the buzzword of 2017 in the technology sector, even sparking heated debate between prominent tech moguls upon the nature and future of the technology. Amongst the most discussed issues pertaining to the development of AI is the impact it will have on the nature of work. While there seems to be some consensus that AI-driven machinery will replace human beings in some limited roles, proponents of its development point out the potential that AI will have to create more lucrative opportunities. The technology research company Gartner released a recent report that indicated that by 2020, AI will have taken away 1.8 million jobs – and replaced them with 2.3 million new, and better ones.
This transformation is part of an evolution that has been going on for some time. As technology became essential to running any kind of business, companies felt the need to create a team that could help troubleshoot their technical problems. These teams would help fix computers, maintain servers, and execute those sort of functions. The more tech-driven a company was in the products and services it offered, the greater the depth and requirement of technically proficient personnel.
As smarter systems such as Deep Learning AI with Natural Language Processing capabilities come into play and are adapted for commercial use, there will similarly be a requirement for personnel with the skills to conceptualise, develop, program, and maintain such systems. Further, the applications for AI-driven systems are limitless – the efficiency and effectiveness they have will drive greater adoption. Competition will spur other companies to also adopt these systems to remain relevant, creating a bandwagon effect with far-reaching effects in the short and medium term.
In many ways, automation would enhance human intelligence, and not replace it. This concept of augmented intelligence – a synergy between humans and machine – was seen to perform well, beating out the strongest ‘computer only’ and ‘human only’ teams in a chess tournament held by Gary Kasparov. Even Rob High – the VP and CTO of IBM Watson, one of the world’s most advanced AI systems – indicated in an interview that Augmented Intelligence and not AI would be the manner in which artificial systems would disrupt the human market in the next decade.
Finding the right synergy between human and machine would require considerable human effort and ingenuity to begin with, and there are likely to be a plethora of extremely rewarding work opportunities for workers with technical skills to develop these augmented intelligence systems. In fact, some argue that all ‘AI’ currently operating today is actually ‘augmented intelligence’, as the underlying code and algorithms that they operate on have been written by human intellect.
Speculation about AI that can ‘think’ for itself and ‘live’ in any true sense of the term is still decades away, according to experts. On the other hand, the technologies being implemented today – self-driving cars, natural language processing, Big Data analytics – are all instances of augmented intelligence. However, this does not mean that everyone should relax and just wait for an algorithm to come and solve their career problems. New avenues for innovation will open up with the greater inroads that AI will keep making in our lives, and technology professionals will see a huge spike in the demand for AI-related skills.
As augmented intelligence comes to be used in more companies, the expectation of AI-programming skills from a wider section of the job market will become stronger. Svetlana Sicular of Gartner, one of the researchers responsible for the report about AI jobs by 2020, said that such augmentation will generate $2.9 trillion in business value and recover 6.2 billion hours of worker productivity. She further added that the focus of the industry should be to enrich people’s jobs.
A study in the earlier parts of 2017 predicted the rise of 3 new categories of job roles associated with AI development – ‘trainers’, ‘explainers’, and ‘sustainers’. These automation technologists will be at the forefront of this massive change in our industry, and most of us would do substantially better in this brave new world that is coming if we were adept at AI programming.
(The writer is Managing Director - India, Udacity)
Updated Date: Feb 24, 2018 15:50 PM