Depending on whom you're listening to, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is either a threat that will turn on its creators or is the saviour of humankind in the years to come. As with most things, the truth lies somewhere in the middle of these two options - AI is a technology that will act within its capacity to perform the functions that it is given. Even within the group of people who don't believe that AI will turn violent, many consider AI, with its potential to do repetitive or time-intensive work swiftly and accurately, as a threat to the global job market. If robots do the jobs of humans, what will humans do, they ask. The answer to that is simple - they will do the other jobs that robots can't.

In the last decade or so, swift advances in Machine Learning and Deep Learning technologies have led to AI making a quantum leap in its capacity to perform functions. AI can now decode natural language, translate in real-time, and even engage in limited conversation with human beings. It won't be long before it is capable of passing the Turing test absolutely. The increasing capacity of AI to learn and make decisions added to its existing abilities to work without rest and error-free would make it an ideal choice for doing the kind of manual labour that many are still are engaged in doing today.

What AI has shown little or no capacity to engage in thus far is creativity and innovation. It is unlikely to develop a sense of humour and probably would require centuries of development before it can approach the concept of thinking laterally and outside the box. AI will be much better suited to replace human beings in mass manufacturing, bringing greater synergy and efficiency into that domain than before. Doing so would lower the costs of manufactured goods, increase consumption, and raise the profits of such companies. This would increase these companies' productivity, and make them need more humans in marketing. Which is why certain research firms have indicated that AI will create more jobs than it eliminates, stating that by 2020, AI will generate 2.3 million jobs worldwide.

New avenues

A survey of 1,000 global organisations which deployed AI-based systems found that 80% of the surveyed firms had added more jobs, while two-thirds of the respondents indicated that there had been no reduction in jobs attributable to AI. For the most part, AI is being used to enhance and enable human employees to remove redundant mechanical and record-keeping aspects of their work, freeing them up and enabling them to be more productive.

The spike in demand for AI-proficient programmers is all the more remarkable because there is a dearth of qualified candidates capable of taking up these positions. According to a leading job portal, there is currently a ratio of 2.3 available roles for every suitable candidate. Applications of AI would also create a massive pool of opportunities.

 Even in other industries, AI will create greater productivity that would enhance employment, not curtail it. There will be a greater need for humans who specialise in abstract thinking, creative tasks, and problem-solving, which will lead to job growth in these areas.

While these new jobs will be more lucrative than the ones that AI will take up, they will require substantial reskilling of the existing workforce. Hence, in the field of AI, it is important to focus more on improving the skills of the workforce, than be worried about the growing technology.

We should actively ask how we can make ourselves more productive and less mechanical in our work, and find ways to add problem-solving and analytical skills. Picking up AI programming would be a great choice, as this is easier to learn than one would imagine. So, what are you waiting for?

(The author is managing director - India, Udacity)

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Mangaluru, Jan 21: Several people have been questioned and many suspected places searched as part of the probe into finding out the culprit behind the planting of Improvised Explosive Device at Mangaluru International Airport on January 20, city police commissioner P S Harsha said here on Tuesday.

The bag containing possible explosive substances was found by a CISF official at the entry point of the airport on Monday. it was later defused by the bomb squad.

The commissioner said three police teams probing the case are looking into all angles and hoped to crack it at the earliest.

The probe was progressing well and the suspect who planted the IED would be nabbed soon, he said.

Among those questioned was the auto rickshaw driver in whose vehicle the suspect reached the airport.

Police are also trying to find out whether there is any link between the incident and the bomb threat call received later by the terminal manager against a Bengaluru bound IndiGo flight which left hours late after necessary clearance.

The Bomb Disposal and Detection Squad has sent the residue of the controlled explosion of the device carried out at Kenjar to the Forensic Science Laboratory to find out the nature of the explosive.

Harsha said people have been sending photos and videos of persons looking similar to the suspect to the police, which are being examined.

The auto rickshaw driver who carried the suspect to the airport told the police that the man had another bag in his possession which he left at a salon at Kenjar before going to the airport.

He collected the bag on the way back and got down at Pumpwell junction, the driver said.

Meanwhile, a team of the National Security Guard (NSG) arrived at the MIA on Tuesday to conduct a detailed enquiry into Monday's incident.

They examined the spot where the bomb was found and the entry points to the airport.

The team also visited Kenjar where the IED was detonated by the bomb disposal squad and examined the area to find out the power of the explosion.