University of Southampton Malaysia event highlights skills for AI revolution

It wasn’t that long ago since Artificial Intelligence (AI) seemed like a futuristic concept too far beyond our generations to grace as one that might be manifested in our lifetime; most of us can agree that we were awed by how smart technology was and didn’t assume it would get smarter.

However, today, AI has become a virtually inextricable part of our life; a reality in which we live. Countries are racing to be advanced in the technology, with the application of AI said to greatly enhance levels of economic and social development, among others, a recent report notes.

AI has been developed to be able to learn and think more like humans and is used in specific fields including medical diagnosis, voice recognition, autonomous driving and smart city administration.

This technology will soon change the job landscape as well as impact data privacy, both now a debate among technology experts, organisations, governments and the general public.

According to the Regius Professor of Computer Science and the Pro Vice-Chancellor for International Engagement at the University of Southampton, Artificial Intelligence is set to become a major technological revolution over the next few years. Therefore, there will be a loss of jobs but at the same time, a huge growth in new jobs as well.

The most important thing is to make sure that future generations have the right skill sets to work in the AI industry, she said at a recent talk on The Artificial Intelligence Revolution held in Kuala Lumpur.

Organised by the University of Southampton Malaysia (UoSM), the public lecture was attended by various industry experts who brought home key takeaways from the talk.

On how future generations can prepare themselves to work in the AI industry, the professor said that one needs to have people who studied maths and science, can learn how to do machine programming, do data analysis or manage the data. You need data scientists, machine learning programmers and computer scientists as well as mathematicians.

The expert urged that anyone could work in AI; she sought diversity where people coming into AI have different types of skills – it doesn’t mean everyone’s got to do science or computer science. However, the initial push will come from the scientists first.

Apart from the positive breakthroughs using AI, there are also the ethical and legal issues, privacy, security and trust as well as algorithm accountability to be considered and there needs to be regulation.

This is so companies that are developing AI account for their algorithms and also tell people what their algorithms do as a matter of transparency.

However, it is too early to regulate now because we might over-regulate and stifle innovation but that is the sort of thing we need to worry about.

A recognised authority on AI, the professor’s research in multimedia and hypermedia continues to be highly relevant to today’s technologies. The influence of her work has been significant in many areas including digital libraries, the development of the Semantic Web, and the emerging research discipline of web science.

The expert argues that in the future machines are going to be capable of doing the sort of things we do, and we need to be wary of that future, today. The world’s citizens need to get it right today so that we work with the machines and we don’t actually start developing AIs and machines that have their own intelligence, in a way that will destroy the human race.

If machines do become as intelligent as we are, then by definition that’s the end of us as a human race because machines can evolve. If you have a machine that can think for itself and evolve itself, then they evolve much faster than us, and we could become slaves of the machines rather than masters of the machines.