Why You Need to Study Artificial Intelligence, Even As A Non-Technical Person

Artificial Intelligence will be one of the basic technologies that will be used to build the future.

Sandra Lusmägi

You’ve probably heard the terms Artificial Intelligence (AI)and Machine Learning (ML) recently in the news. It seems to be the new buzzwords, just like cryptocurrency not long ago. Bitcoin is not making headlines anymore, making people question, was it only a clickbait buzzword and is AI the same? What are these new technologies and why should we, the common people, the non-technical people, care? Reality is— our society is on the brink of a technological revolution, and Artificial Intelligence is at the core the Fourth Industrial Revolution which will fundamentally alter the way we live and work. It will affect all of us.

Leading technology giants Facebook, Google, Amazon are all excited about Artificial Intelligence. Google CEO Sundar Pichai emphasized in 2017 just how important AI is to the future of the company by saying:

“I’m really happy with how we are transitioning to an AI-first company. The Google Assistant is one of our first steps towards that future…Advances in machine learning are helping us make many Google products better… Beyond that, we continue to set the pace in machine learning and AI research.” — Alphabet 1Q17 Earnings Call

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos did not hold back either in 2016:

“It’s hard to overstate how big of an impact AI is going to have on society over the next 20 years.” at the Code Conference in California

Even though we hear about it in the news, and see headlines, how many of us really know — what is AI? Why is it important? Let’s face it, there are not many people who truly understand what AI and ML are, it’s relatively new, but as it will have a huge impact on our lives in the future, we should aim to have at least a basic understanding of it. I would suggest to pay attention especially if you are still in the early days of your career. Chances are, it will deeply influence the future of work and your career as a result, no matter the industry you are in.

So — what is AI?

I have been really interested in everything related to the future and especially the technology that will shape it. But I have to admit, I also lacked a clear understanding of AI, even though I’ve known for a very long time about the massive importance of it.

During my University years, I always attended workshops around entrepreneurship and got the habit of going to one of the biggest tech conference in the Nordic, Slush, every year. Even though I studied business, I always tried to widen my perspective and educate myself in those topics that weren’t directly related to my studies. It is a shame business and technology studies are not integrated more, as it often is in the “real” world. So, I have been learning on my own, mostly because, well, I can. As I wrote in my previous article, it is up to us how we use the power that is access to unlimited information that is available thanks to the internet. I really find technology fascinating and over time, got over the limiting belief that only tech people need to know this stuff. I’m not a tech-head — what I am is a person of curiosity, ideas and dreams.

We cannot wait until someone or something (university) will give us the information we need, we need to educate ourselves. Taking matters in my own hands to learn about these concepts that are already major and will only get more significant in the future, I did what any other person would do — I Googled it.

Here are some of the results to what is AI:

· AI is the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.

· Artificial intelligence (AI), sometimes called machine intelligence, is intelligence demonstrated by machines, in contrast to the natural intelligence displayed by humans and other animals.

· Artificial intelligence (AI) makes it possible for machines to learn from experience, adjust to new inputs and perform human-like tasks.

· Artificial intelligence (AI) is an area of computer science that emphasizes the creation of intelligent machines that work and react like humans.

From this simple Googling experience, I already noticed that AI means different things to different people, and I had to go deeper in the attempt to better understand it.

The graduation speech of my generation.

Google is a good start. You can find many online courses and workshops organized all over the world if you live in a bigger city. Some of them might cost a lot of money since it really is a hot topic at the moment.

Free quality online education Finland style

Here’s where the Finnish education delighted me once again. I learned about an online course created by the University of Helsinki and Reaktor, called The Elements of AI. I saw many people in my professional network endorsing it on social media, so I didn’t hesitate for a moment to take this course.

I took the first module yesterday and I’m impressed. It’s mind blowing how this quality of teaching is free and accessible to anyone. The teaching material itself is amazing and equally importantly, the way it’s delivered is what the future of higher education can and should be.

The course is divided into 6 modules:

· What is AI?

· Solving problems with AI

· Real world AI

· Machine learning

· Neural networks

· Implications

Upon completion, you can earn an extra 2 ECTS toward your studies and a digital certificate, which looks like this:

This course will not make anyone an expert, but as you can tell from the modules overview, it provides a solid foundation to understanding the topic and the ability to join the discussion.

Innovation is everyone’s job

I said previously that you should pay attention if you are just now starting out your career. Why? Because you need to be in charge of your own knowledge and readiness to face the changing job market. Currently, the education system cannot keep up with rapid changes, but thank goodness we can use our own minds and the internet, to be ready.

No matter your role in your future work place, what will be radically different from organizations in the past is how innovation happens on all levels. Imagine if Apple would have only relied on product (technology) innovation, instead of innovative approaches to packaging, retail sales, customer access, partner agreements etc. It probably would not have become the world’s first trillion-dollar company.

You don’t need to become an AI expert to come up with new ways how AI can help solve problems and make our lives better. You need to understand the core of the underlying technology to join the conversation. Gone are the days when only certain people within an organization were in charge of innovation. The organizations that will survive the Fourth Industrial Revolution encourage and empower all of their employees to innovate.

Diversity is key in building a better world with technology. We need different points of views and more gender equality in the future. How can we build technology that will be used by everyone, but if not everyone is involved in the process of imagining, designing and building it? Understanding the basics of technology, such as code, AI, ML means we no longer have to accept the bystander role in our digital society. Even if we think of ourselves as non-technical people.

If this post (or my any other work) has in any way inspired you to keep learning about technology, entrepreneurship and self-development, please leave me a message here or find me on social media. I already have a small study group online where we encourage and inspire each other, but I want to grow the community, if there’s interest. Looking forward to connecting with more people and continuing to learn together!

Sandra Lusmägi

Written by

Founder of Wanderwork.com, futurist and global citizen.

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