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AI: The promise and the peril

Taylor Armerding | June 6, 2017
Artificial intelligence is here and its presence and associated disruption will increase in the future. Panelists at the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium discussed ways to ease that disruption.

That capacity to absorb and analyze massive datasets is one of the things that makes AI effective in cybersecurity, It can spot anomalies much more quickly than humans.

But as Joi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab and moderator of a panel titled, "Putting AI to Work," put it, the fear that machines will become smarter than humans and take over the world is tempered by the reality that "they're stupid and they've already taken over the world."

There was general agreement that AI is now generating and will continue to generate massive disruption. It will require massive adaptation if AI is to benefit society at large, and not just a few big winners. Some panelists were optimistic that, as has been the case with other technological revolutions, there will be new jobs created that can't even be imagined now.

However, Ryan Gariepy, cofounder and CTO of Clearpath and OTTO Motors, was dubious that the same will happen with the revolution now under way. "My opinion is that we will not see net new job creation," he said. "If I and other people do our jobs, you won't need as many people to keep the world moving. There needs to be some social consideration of that."

He said he expects millions of jobs to become obsolete, and for that trend to accelerate, adding that retraining is not always a practical option. "Truck drivers can't go back to school," he said, "and 90 percent of those jobs will disappear in a generation," when autonomous vehicles become standard.

Brynjolfsson warned that it won't just be low- to medium-skilled jobs affected. "There is the potential for it to take over many other jobs," he said. "Machines can read MRIs and other medical images. People with 20 years training may find their skills are irrelevant."

Ali Azarbayejani, CTO of Cognito Corporation, noted that while the current technology revolution will likely create many new jobs, they will be different jobs that require different skills.

Some of those jobs are already apparent - in cybersecurity. As has been well documented, robots and machines can be hacked. There have been high-profile demonstrations of hacks of self-driving vehicles. So those machines, devices and vehicles, and the individual users and companies that depend on them, will require an expanding security workforce for protection.

Seth Earley, CEO of Earley Information Science, while agreeing there will be, "an enormous amount of disruption," from AI, was more optimistic about retraining for the jobs of the future. "The thing that is causing the problem is part of the solution, because of improvements in training with robot simulation," he said. "Imagine the best teacher you ever had. Imagine that being developed into a program."


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