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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Cooch Behar (WB), May 13: West Bengal governor Jagdeep Dhankhar was on Thursday shown black flags at Sitalkuchi, where four villagers died after firing by central forces during the elections, while "go back" slogans were raised at Dinhata during his visit to Cooch Behar district to meet people allegedly affected in post poll violence.

Earlier in the day, Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar who is on a controversial visit to assess post-poll violence in the district said he was shocked by incidents of attacks following the West Bengal assembly elections.

"The country is facing a COVID crisis, and West Bengal is facing twin challenges of the pandemic and unprecedented post-poll violence only (as) some people decided to vote as per their own choice," he said.

The run up to the visit was marked by a war of words between the Governor and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee with the chief minister writing a letter on Wednesday claiming the visit violated established norms as it was being undertaken unilaterally without consultations with the state government.

She also claimed the Governor was by-passing the state council of ministers and dictating directly to state officials, which was violative of the constitution.

An agitated Dhankhar came out of his car at Dinhata and reprimanded police officials for allegedly not acting to prevent slogan-shouting protesters, who numbered around 15 and had assembled with posters saying "BJP's governor go back".

"I am shocked, this is total collapse of rule of law, I could never imagine such a thing could happen," he told reporters.

Police officials chased the protesters away from the spot.

"I have seen fear in the eyes of people and they are afraid to go to the police station to file complaints," Dhankhar said about his interaction with people in post-poll hit villages.

The Governor visited Mathabhanga, Sitalkuchi, Sitai and Dinhata and talked to people who claimed to have suffered attacks at the hands of ruling Trinamool Congress supporters after election results were announced on May 2.

Dhankhar, who visited several households at the four places, said "homes have been looted and even ornaments kept for girl's marriage, utensils and other items for 'shradh' were taken away."

The governor was also shown black flags by some persons at Golokganj when his convoy travelled from Mathabhanga to Sitalkuchi, as a posse of policemen put up human walls to prevent protesters from coming down on to the road.

Posters and placards criticising the visit of the governor were also seen at Jorpatki in Sitalkuchi, the scene of firing by central armed police force personnel that killed four persons on April 10 during the fourth phase of polling in the West Bengal assembly elections.

"History will judge Mamata Banerjee, the chief minister. History will also judge Jagdeep Dhankhar, the governor, and it will judge the bureaucracy and the media," Dhankar said, interacting with the media.

Claiming that he did not get any response from the state government despite efforts being made to get information about the post-poll violence, Dhankhar said the state government must provide him with required information under Article 167 of the Constitution.

The Governor pointed out that "during elections, she (the chief minister) had publicly said the central armed police force will not be there always and she will see after that.

"This kind of challenge and behaviour is not acceptable under the constitution," he added.

BJP MP Nisith Pramanik accompanied the governor during his visit to the areas, where the saffron party has alleged loot and attack on its workers.

Some women wailed and fell to the feet of the governor claiming that all their belongings were looted and that the men of their families had fled their homes to escape attacks.

Reacting to the visit, veteran TMC MP and party spokesperson Sougata Ray said "He (Dhankhar) did not listen to the state government and went to Cooch Behar. He went there in the company of a BJP leader. His conduct is unconstitutional".

"Previously we had written a letter to the president against this governor. If the CM says, we will send another letter against him to the president," Ray said.

The TMC in December last year had written to President Ram Nath Kovind seeking to remove Jagdeep Dhankhar from the post of governor, accusing him of "transgressing constitutional limits" by regularly commenting against the state administration in public.

Terming the Governors conduct as unbecoming, senior TMC leader and minister Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay added "the governor is doing politics over stray post-poll incidents, (to contain) which the state government has taken all necessary steps. He is doing politics when the state is busy fighting the pandemic. We wish that the governor and the state government work together to fight the Covid situation.

The governor said he will on Friday visit camps in Assam where BJP workers, who reportedly fled from West Bengal owing to the post-poll violence, have been staying.