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This article talks about the rise of the machines…

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If you’ve watched Terminator you’ll have seen a vision of machines taking over the world. Computers becoming self-aware with artificial intelligence. While the vision of robots becoming human cyborgs is science fiction, today’s reality is that robots are becoming more sophisticated thanks to artificial intelligence and big data. Are robots going to take your job? It depends on the job you have currently. This article talks about the rise of the machines, if you’re at risk and what you should do about it.

What is artificial intelligence? In simple terms, artificial intelligence is a set of complicated equations, called algorithms, that have the ability to change and rewrite themselves in response to the data they are given. This is the limit of their intelligence. The algorithms are designed so a machine can make a decision by applying criteria to pieces of information.

For example if an organisation uses artificial intelligence to choose their next employees they would feed the requirements the job entails into an algorithm. The easiest way to do this is to feed previous CVs into the algorithm together with information on whether they were hired or rejected. This provides the software with a screening criteria and the artificial intelligence will select and reject CVs on that basis. The American term garbage in, garbage out applies to artificial intelligence. It’s only as good as the data it is fed. Amazon found this out when it fed CVS of its existing employees into the artificial intelligence hiring algorithm. The system recognised that the majority of the employees were male and set this as a key factor in the selection criteria. Any female applicants were automatically rejected.

So, should you be afraid that your job is at risk and you’ll be replaced by a robot? If you’re current role is repetitive, with few complex skills required to complete it then a robot, programmed with artificial intelligence, may be able to replace you. However, jobs that require human interaction and more complex decisions to be made are unlikely to be at risk. Often you hear about successes with artificial intelligence, but there are many examples of jobs that cannot be done successfully by robots. For example, a hotel in Japan planned to replace employees with robots to serve customers. The robots made mistakes and simply annoyed the customers to the point where the test period had to be cut short.

Artificial intelligence is very useful where there is large quantities of data to support it. Big data and change management strategies are used to incorporate cutting-edge technologies into businesses. A business wants to make their operations more efficient, so they can produce more, quickly. To do that effectively, the algorithms used need to be programmed to make correct decisions. There are great opportunities for new jobs here. You may find yourself in charge of a robot, rather than being replaced by one. Data scientists and engineers are applying artificial intelligence and advanced analytics expertise to build solutions that transform business performance. The opportunities lie in understanding machine learning, deep learning, optimization, simulation, text and image analytics. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are on the list of the most important skills in the job market currently. Jobs that require these skills are expected to expand by 71% in the next five years.

Artificial intelligence is already being used by large businesses. You’ve probably experienced it, but not known. Think chatbots, loan requests, and recommendations for car insurance. There are some key sectors that are using artificial intelligence successfully. These include the medical sector, automotive production, cybersecurity, ecommerce and recruitment.

BCG is a management consultancy that specialises in helping organisations apply artificial intelligence and advanced analytics to their business. Their annual research shows that artificial intelligence helps employees make better decisions, because they have more information to work with. They find they have a better understanding of their job. As a result they found that rather than replace employees artificial intelligence helped them make more of their own decisions without needing as much direct support from their manager.

Artificial intelligence will not make human workers obsolete. It will continue to drive massive innovation that will fuel many existing industries.  It could have the potential to create many new growth sectors, leading ultimately to the creation of more jobs. It’s useful to know that artificial intelligence programs are only capable of specialized intelligence. It can solve only one problem, and perform only one task, at a time. Humans have generalized intelligence so they bring problem solving, abstract thinking and critical judgement that will continue to be important in business.

So, are the robots coming to take your job? If they are, it’s not for a long time yet and you’ll be upskilling to take charge of it.