By Katie King | @katieeking
Artificial intelligence (AI) is advancing at lightning pace, but there has been an inconclusive focus on its real impact on employment and the way we learn.
Whilst these new technologies can improve the speed, quality and cost of available goods and services, we don’t yet know the extent to which they may also displace large numbers of workers. According to Oxford University economists Dr Carl Frey and Dr Michael Osborne, 40% of all jobs are at risk of being lost to computers in the next two decades. Understandably, headlines like these are unsettling and leave many people worried about what will happen if robots do end up taking multiple jobs from humans.
In the education sector, there are further predictions that intelligent machines could replace the best teachers of the future. Sir Anthony Seldon, vice chancellor of the University of Buckingham and former master of Wellington College, predicts that the impacts of technology over the next decade will completely transform the education system.
He believes that teachers will remain in classrooms to set up equipment and maintain discipline, whilst AI assistants conduct the real education. “It certainly will change human life as we know it. It will open up the possibility of an Eton or Wellington education for all…Everyone can have the very best teacher and it’s completely personalised; the software you’re working with will be with you throughout your education journey…It can move at the speed of the learner. This is beyond anything that we’ve seen in the industrial revolution or since with any other new technology.”
Robots: cost-competitive and increasing rapidly
The impact of automation is already being felt throughout the global economy, with the worldwide number of industrial robots increasing rapidly over the past few years. If you add to this – over time – a further decrease in the price of robots and AI, which can operate all day without interruption, you see further evidence building for yet more cost-competitiveness compared to the human worker.
For example, computer algorithms are executing stock trades in a fraction of a second; much faster than any human. As these technologies become cheaper, more capable, and more widespread, they will find even more applications across the economy.
The trend towards increased automation also stems, in part, from the most recent recession, which forced many businesses to operate with fewer workers. After surviving this difficult period, many businesses continued automating their operations rather than hiring additional workers, and this continues to be the case with the ongoing development of AI.
It’s fair to say that experts disagree on the size of the impact that automation technologies and AI will have on the workforce. While some warn of staggeringly high levels of unemployment, others point out that technology may create new job categories that will employ displaced workers.
Further research suggests that AI will also help people to learn and prosper in the fourth industrial revolution. AI gets to know the student and understand how the person is learning so it can review old material and add more challenging content. On a positive note, AI will undoubtedly be better than anything that exists today in terms of helping you to find whatever new jobs it ends up creating.
A more positive outlook
HubSpot’s co-founder and CTO Dharmesh Shah also has a more positive outlook on the future of AI. He believes that bots and AI will actually make us better at our jobs and more secure in our careers.
AI will power software that gets to know you, your skills and your desires and will constantly monitor job openings for you. Successful people in the AI age will be those that focus on work that takes advantage of unique human strengths, like social interaction, creative thinking, decision-making with complex inputs, empathy and questioning. At present, AI cannot think about data it doesn’t possess, so it predicts what you want to see on Facebook, for example, based on what you’ve already liked. It can’t predict that you might like something that’s entirely different.
Currently, only humans can think that way, so the most valuable people in the era of Business 4.0, will be the savvy people who ask the most interesting questions. Which leads us to conclude for now, that AI will ultimately collaborate with us, not compete against us.
Maximizing societal benefits
In acting as our collaborator, AI could assist us with cracking our most pressing problems. Eminent professor Stephen Hawking and the team working at the Future of Life Institute believe that AI could potentially “eradicate disease and poverty,” and are working to “maximize its societal benefits.” Simultaneously, however, these same protagonists and other like Elon Musk, caution loudly so that the world does not effectuate some of the worst-case scenarios, for example robot warfare.
We can’t be certain yet that we will succeed, but what we can guarantee is that we can’t do it without AI. Whatever your views, there is no turning back the clock; AI is here to stay.
If you are keen to find out more about the impact on AI on businesses, stay tuned to our blogs, and also take a look at our #TimTalks
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