Why fear shouldn’t stop us embracing artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence: A cause for fear or excitement?

What are your feelings about the rise of artificial intelligence (AI)? Are you concerned about the potential power robots could have in the future? Or are you excited about how increasingly sophisticated technology is changing the way the world operates?

It’s important that the first isn’t a barrier to the second if we are to experience the benefits of AI in the future. But it is easy to understand why some people are fearful of AI’s impact.

What are people scared about?

At the SXSW Conference and Festivals earlier this year, self-made billionaire Mark Cuban stated: “I am telling you, the world’s first trillionaires are going to come from somebody who masters AI and all its derivatives and applies it in ways we never thought of.”

Mr Cuban’s comments here can be interpreted in several ways. This partly suggests that developments in AI could lead to the creation of a race of powerful, money-making machines, akin to something from a sci-fi film. But looking at it from a different angle, his prediction implies that AI is going to continue to surprise us all, changing the way that business is done forever.

Of course, it’s not the first time that machines have completely transformed business; if people had been terrified of the mill machinery of the 19th century, the industrial revolution may never have taken place and the world we now live in would be a very different one. And imagine if people had been scared of the first computers; society would be a completely different place. AI is therefore seen by many as simply the next step in the progression of the modern world.

But what about robots taking jobs?

One of the most prominent areas of concern is that AI will eventually take over a significant number of jobs currently performed by humans, consequently taking away people’s livelihoods.

However, data from Forrester predicts that while AI will take over 16 per cent of jobs in the US by 2025, it will lead to a nine per cent increase in new opportunities. Remember: computers may have removed the need for some roles, but they also helped to create a host of new ones.

What’s more, in many cases, employers are struggling to fill jobs designed for humans due to an ongoing widespread skills shortage, and machines are increasingly helping to fill these talent gaps.

With all of this in mind, the Sage Foundation is helping to make sure that young people are learning the skills that are likely to be needed to repair, maintain and develop AI in the future.

The organisation is running a BotCamp aimed at 16 to 25-year-olds to ensure they are embracing, rather than fearful of, the technology that will spearhead the fourth industrial revolution.

Stephen Kelly, chief executive officer at Sage, explained: “AI is an area where the UK leads, and with this announcement we are continuing to push boundaries. We are always looking for great talent to develop our AI capabilities and the IT skills shortage is well-documented.

“As millennials are great adopters of bots, we are giving them the opportunity to code for their future peers, business builders and industry leaders.”

Keep it simple to avoid fear

Kriti Sharma, vice-president of bots and artificial intelligence at Sage, explained to Search Manufacturing ERP that one of the best ways to avoid fear around AI is to keep this type of technology seemingly simple. Sophisticated technical and software engineering work may be involved in its development, but making AI easy to use will help consumers get used to it.

“Focus on a specific use case. Even if the bot does just one thing right, it’s good enough for users,” Ms Sharma advised.

She added that it’s more useful for developers to create bots that can be used regularly – for general accounting, for example, rather than just once a year for tax returns -, as this allows people to become more familiar with AI over time. This is the concept behind Sage’s Pegg accountancy robot, which is designed to save business owners time, rather than completely taking their jobs away.

Therefore, if we think of AI as something we can work alongside rather than something we should be fearful of, the benefits will be far greater and we’ll be able to move towards an exciting, collaborative future.

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