Artificial Intelligence (AI) and COVID-19 are the two most significant developments in our lifetimes that have changed the way we look at ourselves and the entire world.
While the pandemic has brought the world to a near standstill, AI has incorporated itself gradually in our lives and everyday activities. From online shopping to smart home devices; from enhanced selfies to social media platforms; from preventing credit card fraud to efficient customer service, artificial intelligence has a compelling role to play.
AI has, over several years, shown gradual yet deliberate development, thanks to the dystopian portrayal given to it in science fiction. However, all those concerns depicted in fiction cannot be dismissed as nugatory. Loss of jobs and invasion of privacy are the risks that we will be taking as a result of advancing artificial intelligence. However, the year 2020 can be called a landmark year with new requirements giving rise to new opportunities. Let us take a closer look!
COVID-19 has shaken the world in many ways that are beyond clinical. The downsides of the pandemic have forced the world to think of the alternatives and almost every alternative calls for the implementation of AI like a pinch of salt – imperative and indispensable.
RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
AI has a very important role to play in research and development across all fields. Astronomy, automobile industry, healthcare, finance, entertainment, social media, gaming, smart home appliances; the applications of AI are ubiquitous. In healthcare, AI algorithms empower advancements right from the detection of diseases to the development of drugs.
To add on, AI algorithms such as ‘Blockchain’ help consolidate medical data. Closer to home, we have the ‘Aarogya Setu’ app which extensively uses AI algorithms to update us on the status of development of the pandemic. The app is up and running with around 100 million users and counting. Thus, AI has an indelible influence on pandemic control too.
Having established its predominance in R&D, AI is here to stay, which means there will be a steady rise in the number of job opportunities.
Automation has already made its inception in the industrial set-up. The post-pandemic scenario has more scope for automation of tasks, which on one hand spells calamity for unskilled workers, but on the other hand, promises to improve opportunities for skilled Data Scientists and AI Specialists. According to a report, several call-centres are already employing AI-powered bots to fill temporary positions. The companies, having tasted the kind of economic and productivity benefits, are likely to continue this practice.
In the future, it is possible that more than 70% of the managerial jobs will be taken up by Chatbots or Virtual Assistants. While there is a general apprehension that the implementation of AI will cause a ripple effect of layoffs and loss of jobs, the real picture implies something different. According to a recent study by Capgemini, 83% of companies that use AI are actually adding more jobs. Another recent report says that, of the 1.8 million jobs that will be lost due to AI, there will 2.3 million new job opportunities created by the introduction of AI.
With the prevalence of lockdowns across many nations, remote working has become a new normal. Online meetings, conference calls, and webinars are being conducted on platforms such as Cisco WebEx, Zoom, Skype, Google Meet, Team Viewer, etc. These technologies that run on AI algorithms are keeping our companies working and the economy from collapsing. It has been found to save a considerable amount of money and it is likely to continue in the post-pandemic era too.
According to a recent survey, almost 43% of regular full-time employees in the US want to continue working from home, even after the pandemic is over. As for companies, they too will support this change as they have been saving a considerable amount of money; according to a recent report, Sun Microsystems saved up to $68 million annually and Dow Chemicals has saved up to 30% of its costs.
CCTVs, surveillance cameras, mobile phone trackers, travel data, etc. are powered by Artificial Intelligence and widely being used and applied across industries. AI-powered Facial Recognition Systems and several more surveillance systems are being used by Governments to incorporate contact tracing. In the current pandemic situation, there is a wide usage of augmented reality glasses that use AI to detect fevers using thermal imaging. Such surveillance methods will be used even after recovering from the pandemic, especially by schools, apartment complexes, government buildings, airports, etc.
So what’s the future of AI?
In the above paras, it has clearly been established that Artificial Intelligence has made its presence felt and is not about to fade away. In fact, its presence has brought into effect some perdurable changes that have and will be pervasively impactful in our lives.
While forcing the unskilled manpower to learn new skills and become competent, there is a huge promise for the workforce that is skilled in Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, and Data Analytics. Industry experts say the field of AI is in its nascent stage; there is scope aplenty. According to a prediction by ‘The World Economic Forum’, there may be a surge in the number of jobs worldwide by 58 million.
Types of jobs and approx. annual salaries:
- Machine Learning Engineer: $142,000
- Data Scientist: $141,000
- Research Scientist: $137,000
- R&D Engineer: $137,000
- Business Intelligence Developer: $136,000
- Computer Vision Engineer: $136,000
These are approximate figures, but the point here is that there is immense and ‘steadily on the rise’ scope for job seekers skilled in AI.
Though Computer Science may be a basic qualification for AI, it is not as simple as that. To make a career in AI calls for a lot of creativity and ability to identify the potential for innovation, in addition to perseverance and confidence. Since the field is yet far from being exploited, there are not many specialized degrees offered in AI. Universities have, however, set the ball rolling in designing inclusive courses for AI specializations. Developing courses and specialized programs for AI will take time but the kind of dynamism that exists in this technology does entail relentless and continuous study.
A few universities that offer niche courses in Artificial Intelligence, a Master’s in Artificial Intelligence are Carnegie Mellon University (USA), University of Cambridge (UK), Technical University of Munich (Germany), Cork Institute of Technology (Ireland), University of British Columbia (Canada), and University of Queensland (Australia).
So prepare to invest your time and your efforts to reap the awe-inspiring rewards that the future (read post-pandemic era) promises!!!
Sashti carries 9 years of extensive experience in the industry. Apart from pursuing her Master’s in the US, she also worked in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for one year. She has extensive knowledge of university shortlisting, and visa. She is a specialist in converting visa rejects into success stories.
Her placement record encompasses top universities (including the Ivy League) such as Columbia University, UCLA, University of Southern California, Carnegie Mellon University, UPenn, University of Michigan, Cornell University, Georgia Tech, University of Waterloo and University of Alberta.