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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Kolkata, Dec 15: The advertisement, in which Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee states that NRC and citizenship law will not be implemented in West Bengal, is unconstitutional and a head of government can't use public money for such campaigns, Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar said on Sunday.

Speaking to reporters at Raj Bhavan, Dhankhar called on those in position of power to not shirk responsibility as it is "no occasion to play politics".

"How can an elected head of a government use public money to give advertisement in national media that there will be no NRC, no CAB in state? This advertisement is unconstitutional," the governor said.

"As Constitutional head I had very gracefully invited her (CM) attention, I had urged her to withdraw it. I am sure you all will agree that public money can't be used to lead an agitation against law of the land," he added.

The governor has been at loggerheads with the Banerjee government over several issues.

Dhankhar, who described the law and order situation in the state as "unimaginable,'' said public property is being damaged in a wanton manner, ruthlessly and recklessly, and fear has been put in the minds of people belonging to a certain section of the society.

In an apparent reference to the chief minister, he said if there is situation she cannot manage, she should seek assistance. "Indian Constitution allows it."

"If she thinks she needs assistance from any quarters she should indicate. We cannot let anarchy to rule," he said.

Violent protests over the amended Citizenship Act continued to rock various parts of West Bengal for the third consecutive day with several incidents of vandalism and arson being reported from different districts.

"It is not an occasion to pay lip service, it is an occasion to be on action mode," Dhankhar said, adding that there seems to be total absence of accountability in certain quarters of the state.

"Police authorities could have anticipated the situation. They should have been more pro-active more involved. Emphasis should have been more to be on action mode," the governor said.

Dhankhar further said a certain section of the society is "hounded" in the state, particularly in Malda, Murshidabad and Nadia districts.

He said it is time for the chief minister to respect the Constitution and use her state machinery in a manner that confidence of people is restored.

The governor later tweeted "A delegation led by Member of Parliament and BJP state President Dilip Ghosh submitted a representation about the serious situation in the state and called for immediate intervention.

"The situation was termed as internal disturbance and virtual collapse of rule of law", Dhankhar significantly tweeted.

In another tweet late Sunday evening, Dhankhar said he has summoned the West Bengal chief secretary and the director general of police to brief him on the situation following violent protests in the state against the amended citizenship law.

The two senior officials have been called to Raj Bhawan Monday morning, Dhankhar wrote on his Twitter handle.