AI: The transition into the future
In November 2019, Dr. Sahid Cholayil, humanitarian educationist and founder of Mission 3G addressed our Computing and Engineering students on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its effects on every industry.
As a known business enthusiast and disruptive thinker, Sahid has received many awards and recognition for his significant contribution to global education. He is a strong advocate of “technological singularity” collaborating with major findings like the Sahidian Equation that measures education retention.
He is an honored RACE Award winner in 2018 by Harvard University Global for his excellence in designing of the “3G Humanitarian Enterprise”.
We got a chance to speak with him and discuss further what AI is and how may affect our future.
What is AI?
AI is basically machine intelligence where machines or tools display or imitate human intelligence. From SIRI to self-driving cars, the developments in AI has grown leaps and bounds. We have reached a stage where we can actively incorporate them in almost all facets of life. It will certainly depend on how us, humans, apply as there are differences of opinion in these developments.
What are the perceptions around AI?
I personally feel that AI will liberate humanity from all problems. It is the first step to solve the unsolvable. Like I said, there are different perceptions on AI development and AI incorporation. We are in a transition period; we will have some trouble to adjust to this vast introduction. There are many common misconceptions to this technology and to be honest there has always have been misconceptions to every visionary development in technology early on.
In the early 80s when computers were introduced, there were fears and anxieties in the masses to use this machine. Trading and payments on the Internet were feared but years later, are we really scared of sending money via internet? Humans often feel nervous around massive technological shifts. This is the same case with AI. The pros undoubtedly outweigh the cons and with the current continuous developments these cons will also become negligible as it has been in the past.
We must be optimistic in our approach and identify the benefits AI brings into our daily lives as that is where our future is heading.
Can you give an example of a change that AI will bring us?
Well, AI implementation is already in place in one way or another in our lives. I can probably mention an incredible development in the healthcare industry that AI brings. There have been huge inroads in robotic surgeons and age reversal technology that will take humans by storm in the next decade.
Robotic or robot assisted surgeries offer greater visualization and dexterity which immensely improves success rate. In addition to this 3D printed organs have been made possible by AI. These developments will be key in improving lifespan of humans where it is projected that the average age of humans can reach close to a century. So far, everything in AI is positive for humanity.
How long do you think this transition period will be? What are the challenges we will face in this period?
Initially, AI will disrupt everything. Theological questions will arise. Philosophical issues will arise. We will have to redefine our thought process and accept this imposition of AI gradually. In some aspects AI may supersede humans and this thought will cause disruption.
As generations progress, AI will get more and more accepted as a tool rather than a threat. Our future generations will have a different mindset, a different approach, a different perception of AI. This will positively impact how much we can further develop and implement AI to its fullest potential.
These challenges have risen throughout history. This should not cause hysteria as this disruption is fairly normal upon facing huge technological advances.
With humans being substituted by machines in certain roles and industries, what impact do you think AI will have on employment?
Every field of study and every profession is in a state of development. A development where more and more opportunities arise. In the 60s, there were no such things as call centers, now it is a billion-dollar industry where big businesses give unrelenting focus on customer service. Even when these are automated, they are still managed by humans, still maintained by humans, still programmed by humans. The question is not robots taking over our jobs, it is about what an individual is doing to fit in into this model.
Like I said, disruption will be there but what we humans proactively do to overcome this is a question. If demand for call center agents are decreasing due to AI, then call center software designer demands are increasing due to AI. Of course, the problem is there, employment rates may take a hit but consequently there are policy makers who are trying to negate these effects. With talks of Universal Basic Income (UBI), developments in statewide AI training so there are progressive reforms. We have to be proactive other than reactive to counter any issues.
Also, technology plays a part in democratizing services. For example, making phone calls used to be heavily charged. You had to pay upwards of AED 50 just to get a SIM. Now calls are cheap, SIMs are being distributed for free. So, technology will also help in minimalizing cost of various basic services which will make it easier for humans. Similarly, technology is playing a part in easing costs and potentially play a part in reducing cost of other services like transportation, cargo, groceries and more.
What suggestion would you give to students coming into this disruptive yet progressive era of AI?
I would suggest students to specialize in multidisciplinary functions where they will have a competitive edge in the era of AI. An education from a multidisciplinary curriculum would give them the right tools to succeed. Every industry will include AI within their operations so it will be beneficial for students to have some technology know-how to boost their career prospects. For instance, a biology student should look to develop technological skills in tandem with the theoretical content. Having specialised or semi-specialised tech skills will make it easier for students to cope with the transition and succeed within their respective fields.
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Waqas Yamin is a marketing executive for UK College of Business and Computing (UKCBC) Dubai, creating content for the website, blogs and other creative media. He contributes with educational and motivational content for the UKCBC newsletter and communications with all stakeholders. He enjoys research and pitches in with engaging, informative content that highlight the importance of education and success stories that inspire and motivate.
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