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INNOVATION| 30.09.2020

What is the main challenge of artificial intelligence?

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In recent years, artificial intelligence has been grabbing attention because of the tremendous possibilities it provides – and above all, will provide – in the future. Its incorporation into very diverse sectors is causing more and more specialists to be required for a technology that promises radical changes in all spheres of life.

In fact, the World Economic Forum expects global spending on AI to reach 52 billion dollars over the next three years, which will allow large economies to double their annual growth over the next fifteen years.

In this scenario, according to Kay Firth-Butterfield, head of artificial intelligence at the World Economic Forum, “Companies will play a key role in determining the impact of AI on society. However, according to our research, many executives and investors do not understand the extent to which AI can help them and the parameters they need to define to ensure that the technology is used ethically and responsibly.” This is why this body has created a learning guide to help them, a further demonstration of the importance they ascribe to this technology.

 

The waves of AI to come

This need for professionals will coincide with the new waves of AI application that have been predicted. As Mark Esposito, associate professor of strategy at IE Business School and co-author of the book The AI Republic: Building the nexus between humans and intelligent automation explains, we are entering the second wave, in which AI will be used to make better decisions, understand the true needs and desires of consumers, improve the focus of marketing and reduce both workloads and costs. All this will be achieved through intelligent automation.

In his paper, Mark Esposito himself points out that the third evolution focuses on speech, image and video recognition (this involves extracting information that has not been captured so far and converting it into useful data). Furthermore, the next step taken in AI will be the era of autonomous artificial intelligence, the clearest example of which is autonomous mobility, possible thanks to the ability to detect surroundings.

Part of our life

As we can see, the adoption of AI technologies will continue to grow in such a way that it will eventually become essential to the functioning of society itself. During the conference “Artificial Intelligence by and for Society,” Nuria Oliver, a doctor in Artificial Intelligence, declared that it is already part of our life and assured us that it will affect us in the most unpredictable way in the coming years.

“It is virtually impossible for society to face the challenges ahead without relying on AI techniques: achieving preventive and predictive medicine, a personalized and universal education, addressing the problem of aging populations, creating more accurate climate models… AI in itself does not represent the solution to these challenges, but it will certainly be part of the solution to many of them,” she explained during the presentation.

However, this specialist warned of the need for AI talent to not only be in the private sector or to go to the US or Asia. In fact, she believes that in Europe, investments must be made in retaining those professionals who leave in search of better opportunities and greater research options.

In this sense, Alberto Marcos, head of the Microsoft Universities in Spain, assures that “digitization is boosting the economy and helping businesses to be competitive and increasing the creation of specialized employment.” He adds, “Perhaps the most interesting thing about the impact of digitization on the labor market is that these new job positions are not only being created in the technology industry, but also in companies in all kinds of sectors, which need to hire talent that have the digital skills while also being specialized: Data management, AI, machine learning … Technology-related profiles are among the most difficult to find and, in the near future, those related to data analytics, cloud computing and application development.”

 

The importance of specialized training

Therefore, the demand for experts in the field is opening the doors for universities to offer new AI-related training. Not in vain, according to a study carried out by LinkedIn, an artificial intelligence specialist is the most in demand job position.

Given this reality, in Spain we find an example of how training in this technology is being promoted in the agreement recently signed by Microsoft and CEU University. This training company has included the first Degree in AI powered by Microsoft in its selection of courses at the universities of CEU San Pablo (Madrid), CEU Cardenal Herrera (Valencia) and Abat Oliva CEU (Barcelona).

As the signatories of the agreement put it, the aim is to promote knowledge in this area and to do so effectively, that is to say, by demonstrating how this type of technology will be a driving lever for the future of business. After all, as important as having extensive theoretical training is, knowing how to introduce it into any external area is even more so.

“We believe that training in line with the digital age is necessary. Any career, not just STEM careers, will need to include technology and AI issues, which will define the future. The use of AI can reach any field, not just technology. Therefore students of any kind of degree—Law, Journalism…to give some examples of non-STEM careers—will need qualified training in technologies such as artificial intelligence and data science, since they will have to apply it in their future careers,” notes Alberto Marcos.

The future is today

Although most people still think Artificial Intelligence belongs to the future, the truth is that AI projects are all around us in our everyday life; hence the importance of having people ready to carry them out.

After all, “AI has infinite uses, from education to agriculture, any sector can be optimized thanks to AI. This is probably the most inspiring and promising aspect of the digital revolution: The doors that are opened so that all of us can prosper and create a better world,” says Alberto Marcos.

The specialist also gives a little more detail on how AI is to evolve: “The scope of application of these solutions must be prioritized. Their scope and the specific business needs in each of the key areas for organizations must be defined. It’s about choosing the right tools and entry points and thinking about what makes the most sense from an investment and opportunity perspective. It is not so much about using artificial intelligence in all kinds of scenarios at the same time, but rather about defining where it can be used to help a company grow and differentiate itself and to help build its own digital capabilities to improve its competitive position. What we are seeing is that companies that are acting more decisively on AI are leading their business sector, taking advantage of a window of opportunity that their competitors are not capable of reducing.”

Therefore, any company that wants to evolve in its industry must consider using it. However, in order to be able to ride this unstoppable wave, we need to have professionals who are prepared. That’s where the main challenge for artificial intelligence lies over the next couple of years.