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The fear of Artificial Intelligence

Nowadays it seems you can’t scroll through LinkedIn or Twitter without seeing at least one post related to Artificial Intelligence. Although AI has existed for decades, it’s been hyped a great deal more recently because breakthroughs in both software and hardware have allowed the pace of development to accelerate. We already know it’s a technology that has incredible potential. But there’s also a level of fear involved.

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Take Sophia the Robot as an example. Sophia was developed by Hanson Robotics and is the first robot to be given citizenship of a country. Her creator, David Hanson, describes her as being in the “infancy” of AI, if you’ve seen any of her videos, it’s really quite eerie and unnerving. The intelligent answers, facial expressions and understanding she has of her surroundings are astounding. And to think that this is just the beginning for a robot of her kind, makes you realise you may have underestimated what this technology can do. On one occasion Sophia even jokes about how she would “destroy humans”…

Sophia aside, is the future really going to become a horror show with robots wiping out businesses and human jobs? Well, AI has already affected jobs such as switchboard operators, cashiers and factory workers, and people talk about millions of private UK jobs being replaced within the next 10 years. Cue the panic button. As humans, we require employment for both livelihood and emotional wellbeing.

It’s worth remembering that technology has historically been a job creator and not a job destroyer. In the process of wiping out old jobs, it creates new opportunities; provided – here’s the catch – that we continue to evolve and innovate with new developments, and workforces are focused on training and education to provide people with the new skills they need for tomorrow’s jobs. Research firm Gartner says 1.8 million jobs will be eliminated by 2020, but 2.3 million new jobs will be created by then.

AI will change the nature of the work we do, and it will mean that workers have to adapt, take on further responsibilities, and see a wider focus in their role in order to keep up. But instead of seeing it as a threat, AI should be seen as an enabler to carry out routine, repetitive tasks, allowing workers to focus on problem solving and interactions requiring empathy or common sense. No matter how advanced robots may become, it’s more than likely that programming them to match the exact intelligence and adaptability of a human will remain impossible. Accepting the developments of AI with an open mind means that a continuous learning culture is created and that we’re able to thrive in a new economy.