Artificial Intelligence: a real game changer requiring focus on our own skills

By Cecilia BONEFELD-DAHL, Director General of Digital Europe

Looking back in time, it is hard to grasp that people in a space ship managed to travel 356.000 km through dark space in 1969 and landed safely on the moon. Especially considering that the combined computer power of the Lunar Lander was no more powerful than an old-school pocket calculator. In the analogue time, the whole idea of artificial intelligence (AI) was a topic of Sci-Fi movies only.

When we are discussing AI today, 50 years later, we foresee new realities and we imagine concrete impact on our daily life and work.

It is no secret that AI has now become an integrated part of our lives: advanced AI in cars can now make them completely self-navigating; smartphones can act as our voice-recognizing personal assistants; audiovisual service pro-viders, such as Netflix, predict our viewing habits based on our daily viewing behaviour.

With the speed of the digital evolution, we will not wait another 50-year before experiencing the next generations of advanced AI. I am convinced that, in less than 10-15 years, AI will have changed the world as we know it today.

Language barriers are disappearing, as self-learning systems learn to translate our spoken conversations on the fly; completely self-driving cars will make the daily commute a natural extension of the office; healthcare will take account of new possibilities for diagnosis and treatment that we can only dream of today.

Yet, AI triggers many questions and can be perceived as a source of concerns. Will AI outsmart us and take over the world? Will it be used to do evil instead of good? Will it make humans obsolete, resulting in an explosion in unemployment? Close monitoring and ethical considerations must naturally come along with AI as we should not be blind to the potential dangers or disadvantages.

Nor must we, however, let the fear of development and the unknown be the cause of overregulation and unnecessary boundaries that will halt positive innovation and progress.

When it comes to the work place, AI will in no doubt make many of today’s jobs obsolete. Just as the development of modern farming equipment made the need for manual field labouring redundant and today’s giant cargo ships can sail with only a hand-full of crew members where dozens where needed a few years ago.

We should rather consider the constant change in the labour market due to technological progress, as a natural evolution, not a sudden revolution.

We must, however, realize that the speed of development, supported by technologies like AI, is much faster today than only a few years ago. As individuals, we cannot afford to be lagging behind these technological developments.

On the contrary, we must be proactive in predicting which skills are needed tomorrow and ensure that we are equipped with the right set of skills in due time. As employees adjust their skills, new opportunities are created and the number of jobs will follow.