How we can pro­tect our ca­reers in the AI age

Global Times – Metro Beijing - - TWO CENTS - By Wang Han

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.

Il­lus­tra­tion: Lu Ting/GT

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