How we can protect our careers in the AI age
The World Artificial Intelligence Conference 2018 (WAIC 2018) recently wrapped up in Shanghai. The conference completely changed my comprehension about artificial intelligence (AI) technology.
My prior understandings about AI technology mostly came from sci-fi movies and news reports. But after the conference, I have a feeling that this advanced technology will soon infiltrate into different industries and dramatically change our production methods and lifestyles.
At the exhibition zones of WAIC, top AI enterprises worldwide showcased how technology can be applied into different areas, including education, healthcare, finance, retail sales, transportation, smart manufacturing and services.
Though AI technology is expected to massively enhance the efficiency of human society, it also raises concerns and anxieties among ordinary people. One common concern is: are human employees going to be replaced at work by AI machines?
Take myself as an example. I majored in Chinese and Eng- lish translation and interpreting during my undergraduate and postgraduate years. My classmates and I have been aware of machine translations. But at that time we didn’t feel machines were a threat to our profession.
When we tried a machine translation by Google or Baidu, we all agreed the translations were full of grammar mistakes and were not coherent for people to understand. It was very easy for us to distinguish a target text translated by a machine and a real human translator.
However, when I recently used Baidu translation systems, I was surprised to find the accuracy level had improved. When I visited an English news website, once I clicked a translation button, the whole page was instantly presented in Chinese. The translation was accurate! The latest achievements in machine translations make me feel anxious about my job opportunities in the future. Human translators spend many years, even decades, accumulating linguistic knowledge and interpretation skills, and a lifetime to maintain this knowledge. If a machine can learn faster and operate more accurately than us, what are humans’ advantages in the future? One field I think machines cannot replace humans in for the foreseeable future is work that requires creative thinking or constant innovation, such as designing new products, launching new projects, inventing new technological items and providing customized services. The trend requires individuals not to focus on memorizing preexisting knowledge, but to cultivate a systematic understanding of a field and prompt it with new ideas that meet new market demands. While machines are good at repeating the same type of work, humans are able to think, learn from our failures and create something new.