Artificial intelligence is one of the biggest buzzwords in science right now. It’s hitting the headlines frequently, due to the massive leaps in progress being made.
The story which grabbed the most attention was the DeepMind’s AlphaGo AI defeating a three-time European Go champion in emphatic fashion – and then doing the same for the number 1 ranked player in the world.
To put this into context: Go is one of the most difficult games in the world, and is significantly harder to master than chess. It has a vast range of decision trees and possible outcomes, making it extremely difficult to predict, meaning players have to think on their feet and strategise as much as possible.
This has people excited because if AI utilizing neural networks can master one of the most complicated games on the planet, its application within the world of work could be massive.
So how could we use AI in the real world?
One of the main theories of how humanity will use AI and machine learning is within the labour force – more specifically, was part of the fourth industrial revolution. The idea here is that tech can help factories and production lines run more efficiently, having connected machines and AI carry out the bulk of tasks.
Essentially, it’s all about the data. Having a series of machines and components that can all speak to each other via the internet gives businesses a vast amount of data – and in the 21st century, data is valuable. In theory, businesses will be striving for maximum output which can become a reality as factories become far smarter and integrated.
Industry 4.0 is the most obvious application, and is the one that has received the most investment and has the widest scope for implementation so far. But in theory, over time, AI could be introduced into almost any job or task we carry out.
Does this mean our jobs will be replaced by machines?
At the moment, it doesn’t look like this will be the case, simply due to how expensive the tech is. But that doesn’t make the idea any less daunting.
Some have already voiced their concerns after another AI network, Libratus, defeated 4 professional poker players in a 20-day tournament. Even within this short period, the players noticed the AI vastly improved, learning from its mistakes, making the defeat of the human players almost an inevitability.
Poker players are one tiny niche, but the risk of unemployment or obsolescence due to automation in the long term is much larger. In fact, studies have shown that up to 47% of jobs in the USA could be at risk due to automation.
In addition to this, a recent study by Times Higher Education has suggested that the professions most at risk from AI and automation include trades normally associated with being highly lucrative, such as accountancy and business management.
On the other hand, it’s thought that careers that rely heavily on skills pertaining to the arts or human sciences should be more secure.
It will be down to us to make sure the use of AI betters people’s careers and livelihood rather than putting it at risk, and this is something that will require considerable study and investigation in the upcoming years.