Rewind back a few decades, and the term Artificial Intelligence was confined to the world of sci-fi and movies. Many of us watched “The Terminator” in awe at this augmentation of human and machine who was sent back in time to prevent the future leader of a resistance army group from ever being born and marveled at the technology we saw. It seemed to be the stuff of dreams, but in 2018 the widespread use of artificial intelligence, along with machine learning, is a hot topic and a rapidly growing and expanding technology.
Many of us are already used to using Artificial Intelligence in some way in our lives, and at times it is likely we don’t even realize we are using it. We think nothing of saying to our smart speakers, “Alexa, remind me to send my data statistics report to John at 4pm” or asking SIRI to find a nearby Italian restaurant. These are two examples where Artificial Intelligence has dominated our lives.
The End of Jobs in the Engineering Industry?
One industry where Artificial Intelligence has the capacity to dominate is the engineering industry, with many who work in it fearing for their jobs as Artificial Intelligence takes over and automates some parts of their roles. Automated systems are considered a huge threat to jobs in engineering – a recent study commissioned and released by Oxford University found that half of engineering jobs in the USA are at risk of disappearing thanks to automated systems appearing over the next two decades.
The true picture, however, is unlikely to be as extreme as this, as another study released by Stanford University found that there is no imminent threat to those in engineering through the widespread adoption of artificial intelligence. Rather, it is more likely that automated systems will have a very positive impact, as opposed to a negative one.
Applying Artificial Intelligence to Engineering
Although great strides have been made with robots that can clean and even vacuum rooms in your house (Dyson have made huge progress with a robotic vacuum cleaner), deliver parcels or teach children in various school subjects, they cannot replace more in-depth engineering roles that require a great deal of technical knowledge. It is likely that those who have a strong background in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) will continue to be in demand due to their bespoke skill set.
Even in 2018, computers simply cannot understand how things work. They are good at certain tasks and games, but as artificial intelligence continues to grow and develop, the integration between it and us humans is still vital to AI’s development. Therefore, humans are needed in engineering to develop and grow artificial intelligence as a new technology.
Artificial Intelligence and Humans Coexisting in Engineering
Technological advances over the ages have helped to create an abundance of new jobs, not hinder them. Going back as far as the industrial revolution, jobs were created to run the machines which helped the transition from hand production methods to the use of steam power and iron production processes. This isn’t too dissimilar to today - people are still required to programme artificial intelligence and drive it for the technology to work efficiently.
There will also still be a need for engineers to create, develop and test artificial intelligence systems for them to grow. Technology is growing at an exponential rate, and Artificial Intelligence cannot move forward without people working on developing the technology.
Engineers will be able to complete their work more quickly and efficiently because of new Artificial Intelligence developments and technologies. This in turn will solve problems as they arise or even before they arise.
It is clear that artificial intelligence and machine learning has the power not to hinder engineers and the engineering industry but enhance it. As this new and emerging technology grows, adapts and becomes a big part of our lives, the scope for engineers to embrace this innovative technology and use it to develop new technological advances is huge. With the right skill sets, engineers who can work with Artificial Intelligence and use it to create new advancements will continue to be in demand for many years to come.
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