How AI is about to change your life

Time-travelling machines that alter the future may provide good box office, but the reality is just as compelling. As quickly as tech disrupters emerge the future adjusts. In fact, the impact of AI promises to shake up the future of every industry, from health to agriculture.

AI is only beginning to impact our daily lives thanks to the power of digital information and hardware innovation

Recently seen as upsetters, digital ‘disrupters’ such as cloud and data analytics have already become the new guard of IT and corporate strategy. This is before their full potential has even been reached.

Today, however, new technologies such as AI are poised to become the next ‘disrupters’ in a big way.

Defined by the CSIRO as “technologies that exhibit characteristics of human intelligence”, many organisations are using the now established foundations of data analytics and other tech skills to harness these emerging forces.

Far from being a lethal unit, however, AI is a confluence of tech-powered machine learning and an ability to make decisions through algorithms. 

Facial recognition technology and smart personal assistants, such as Siri and Alexa, have already given us a taste of just how effectively AI frees humans from repetitive tasks.

Although it was discovered back in the 1950s, AI is only beginning to impact our daily lives thanks to the power of digital information and hardware innovation, says Professor John Thangarajah, Associate Dean of Computer Science and Software Engineering, and teacher in the Master of Artificial Intelligence at RMIT.

“The first thing is lots of data and the second thing is hardware, which has come a very long way,” he says. “This huge or rapid growth of hardware can be seen in devices like Apple Watch. It's on my wrist right now and that is more powerful than the massive computer that I had on my desk 20 years ago.

“If someone told me 20 years ago you wear something on your wrist that is more powerful than that, I would have just laughed.”

Professor John Thangarajah, Associate Dean of Computer Science and Software Engineering at RMIT

Globally, governments and companies are fast realising the potential of harnessing AI. Such is its power, consulting firm Accenture predicts AI could double annual economic growth rates by 2035. Working alongside humans, it is predicted the impact of AI technologies will increase labour productivity by up to 40 per cent.

Despite fears that AI will wipe out thousands of jobs - a McKinsey report predicted 30 per cent of all workers would be replaced thanks to emerging technologies - research has proved otherwise. An analysis of more than 50 million job postings by online recruitment platform ZipRecruiter found AI has actually created three times the jobs that it eliminated in 2018.

“AI is not about replacing jobs, it’s about increasing productivity,” Prof Thangarajah said. “AI is a buzzword, but as an AI researcher, I can tell you robots are not going to take over the world. If you go to YouTube, you'll see Boston Dynamics showing robots doing flips. It's crazy, but what you don't see is the 1000 times that they failed and how silly those robots are sometimes as well".

Professor John Thangarajah, Associate Dean of Computer Science and Software Engineering at RMIT

“I've got videos as well of my robots doing some amazing stuff, but I can tell you they're not that smart.”

The demand for roles with AI capabilities shows obtaining AI skills are a sure-fire way to future-proof careers. “The roles of data scientists and machine learning engineers are really well paid and there's going to be plenty of demand for the next five to ten years, for sure,” says Dr Fabio Zambetta, Associate Professor with the School of Science at RMIT.

“They're very specialised jobs, these people are very much sought after and they're paid really well.” It may not yet be integrated into most organisations, but AI is definitely on its way. Dr Zambetta advises students to stay one step ahead.

“AI has been applied to pretty much anything these days, any task that you think of can be automated and very soon, pretty much every job will have components of AI,” he says.“If you have an ability to understand AI in a broader workplace perspective, even if you're not an AI engineer, that sets you apart from everybody else.

“Not everybody will understand what this is about, so it's something quite critical and important to know about.”

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Acknowledgement of country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nations on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business.

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