BY COSSETTE JARRETT
Many discussions about the future of artificial intelligence (AI) stem from conversations surrounding the “digital divide.” With almost one-fifth of the country without access to broadband internet, we still see an advantage for people with easy access as they tend to succeed academically and professionally. That is, they make good grades, complete postsecondary studies, and earn a higher pay grade. People without that access differ, often struggling to complete college and find a competitive job.
But internet access may eventually become one of many types of digital divides. Another looms: artificial intelligence. Companies like Google and Amazon are already preparing themselves for the boom in AI technology, and companies that aren’t prepared could be left behind. As that shift happens, it could also create a divide for employees — between those with AI experience and those without it. Having AI experience on your resumé could keep you at the forefront when searching for a job.
College students should prepare for this possible reality by learning about artificial intelligence today. Doing so helps you think through career plans, build an attractive job profile, and land your dream job.
What Is Artificial Intelligence?
Artificial intelligence strives to make computers think and act like humans, except better. The human brain can comprehend and consciously react to only a fraction of the data thrown at it. A computer, by contrast, apprehends and responds instinctively to all the data fed to it. It learns, too, stemming fatal flaws and repeated mistakes.
You should also know that AI serves as an umbrella term. From it flows things like machine learning, neural networks, and reinforcement learning. Digital Trends offers a good resource on the different types of artificial intelligence, not to mention a tongue-in-cheek Silicon Valley analogy.
Finally, also remember that people place AI in distinct categories or speak of specific applications, such as the aforementioned machine learning. To grow your understanding of what AI is and can do, check out the following three resources:
- Government Technology: What Is Artificial Intelligence?
- Harvard Business Review: Deep Learning’s Next Frontier
- Udacity: Intro to Artificial Intelligence
Are Companies Investing in AI?
In a word, yes, companies are investing in AI. Grand View Research recently published its findings concerning the global AI market. It anticipates the market will grow to nearly $36 billion by 2025, far, far beyond its current market size of a little over $400 million. Primary drivers of this growth include advancements in both dynamic artificial intelligence solutions and the commercial prospects of AI deployment.
Other research firms offer corollary evidence. Accenture, for example, pronounces, “Artificial intelligence is the future of growth.” The firm explains AI could change “the nature of work and create a new relationship between man and machine,” enabling unforeseen levels of workplace productivity and efficiency.
At Forbes, one author writes of several verticals investing in AI, ranging from automotive and health care to agriculture and financial services. For further reading — and a check on all the hype — visit these three sources:
- McKinsey: How Artificial Intelligence Can Deliver Real Value to Companies
- Gartner: AI Technologies Will Be in Almost Every New Software Product by 2020
- The Guardian: Artificial Intelligence Commission Needed to Predict Impact
Which Companies Are Already Using Artificial Intelligence?
You probably guessed “Silicon Valley,” and you’re right. Silicon Valley is no stranger to the realm of artificial intelligence. San Jose, in particular, is a boomtown; Ethan Baron, reporter for The Mercury News, says the city offers “cheaper office rent and older tech workers — to a rapidly expanding cohort of companies focused on artificial intelligence.” (San Jose’s mayor simplifies the situation to “San Francisco has the gamers, we have the grownups.”)
Even Defense Secretary James Mattis envies Silicon Valley. During a West Coast tour, he confessed to WIRED his concern that the Pentagon lags behind the tech industry in embracing and integrating artificial intelligence. His statement is apropos, considering several tech giants — Amazon, Google, and Facebook among them — call Silicon Valley home and boast strong artificial intelligence initiatives.
But Silicon Valley isn’t the only place to find enviable positions in computer science and artificial intelligence. Nonprofits around the world use the technology to make an impact in the lives of their beneficiaries. And Frank Chen, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist at Andreessen Horowitz, encourages “everyone developing any kind of technology-based tool to know that AI has something to offer them.”
Cosette is a tech journalist and editor. You can find her work on sites like VentureBeat, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and Mashable.