A few weeks ago I had no job and no prospect of one either. Direct applications, recruitment agencies, LinkedIn and Twitter had left me nowhere. I discovered a 52-year old Brit is either too qualified, under qualified or hears that someone else is better qualified to fill exciting vacancies: possibly also too old [not said], and too expensive [implied]. They were right. Skills that were important ten years ago are quickly outdated, irrelevant or non-existent for today’s job market. So where does Artificial Intelligence (AI) fit in?
A random stumble back into Twitter led me to register to visit Machine2Learn on a day where job seekers registered to network with participating employers on Nationale Werkbezoekdag, a great initiative! Intrigued to receive an unusual reply (and certainly not expecting an interview) I cycled to the smart Zuid-As and was welcomed by Ali and the team. Content, he said briskly, that’s what we need. Would you write us some content? Well, I hadn’t expected to become (potentially) the oldest intern at an AI startup, but I like a challenge: lacking a tech or coding background; nursing an unexpressed fear that developments in technology had not helped my case as a job-seeker (all those deselecting predictive algorithms); this was going to be interesting.
And? I have discovered AI is a trove of possibilities, solutions and outcomes: it’s not all hype, and I am hopeful for the future. Why? Not only do I now have a job, but AI is not about to take your job! Of course, job content may change, the requirement for human input may change (although luckily for me, human-decision making was still involved), some workers may be displaced but this will only allow us to have the time to be more creative. And the demand for humans to customise data will only increase. Andrew Ng (computer scientist, and founder and CEO from Landing AI) explains that if you can perform a mental task in less than one second of thought, it can probably be automated. He suggests that AI will transform the world as much as the development of electricity (notice that he still uses ‘old tech’ — a whiteboard — to explain AI creatively). But understanding what AI can do, and how it fits into all our futures is critical — no matter if you are a business wanting to fit the opportunities AI offers into your corporate strategy or a job seeker of any age.
The biggest mistake is to label AI as a threat to our jobs and prosperity, and to ignore the possibilities, rather than see how it can change our lives for the better. Yet we all need to understand what it is. We all need to be part of the discussion. And we need to act now to discuss the moral, ethical and creative issues that are raised by AI, realise what is happening to our data, and what is mapped from that data, focusing on the human dimension, rather than leaving it to others to sort out, and apportioning blame later.
Who knows? The data AI requires; the tools that AI offers; may help me, and others, upskill. And, after all, why not?Age will become irrelevant: diversity will be required: creativity will be paramount. I am finding out what AI is: what it can offer us and how we can be part of the discussion, hopefully written in language we can all understand. More to follow soon …