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Beyond the Buzzword: Experts Share 3 Predictions for AI in the Next Decade

In 2020, LinkedIn named artificial intelligence (AI) specialist the #1 emerging job in the U.S. Through 2021 and beyond, the demand for tech professionals with artificial intelligence experience will only grow stronger.

The field has been called “the new electricity.” But the transformational impact of electricity took time, and completely new ways of thinking, to achieve. While experts agree that AI will be a game changer, when and how remain open questions.

What is artificial intelligence poised to deliver? What problems will it solve—and when? To find perspective on these questions and more, we turned to expert edX faculty members from the world’s top universities, who offered three ways we can expect AI to impact our jobs, world, and outlook for the next decade.

#1 – AI as a Solution to Practical Problems

“AI has never been smarter and more readily available, so I predict more applications of AI as the solution to practical problems, rather than just neat proofs of concepts,” said Antonio Cangiano, AI evangelist, software developer at the IBM Digital Business Group, and instructor for courses in IBM’s Applied AI Professional Certificate program. “I can see major opportunities for enterprising people who will apply this principle to come up with innovative solutions for real problems by leveraging their AI skills.”

David Joyner, PhD and executive director of online education for the College of Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology, echoed the idea of harnessing AI for more practical applications. Joyner teaches several edX computer science courses and programs, including Programming in Python and Human-Computer Interaction.

“We start to recognize that the current approach to machine learning and things like that aren’t going to create some of the things that we’ve conceived of as one day being the result of AI. Things like finding novel solutions to tough problems. Those will need something more because you don’t have millions of examples to train them on,” Joyner said.

“But there’s still so many things that you can do with it with regard to problems we have today. Vertical farming, for example, just learning so much more about how you can optimize nutrient delivery and water delivery for maximum nutrition for growth time, etc. There’s just so much we can do within those areas. So I think one of the big hot topics will be the application of machine learning to the things that go beyond the traditional areas of advertising and scientific research.”

An MIT Technology Review article underscores the importance of a focus on real-world programs, quoting neuroscientist and AI thought leader Gary Marcus: “AI’s greatest contributions to society … could and should ultimately come in domains like automated scientific discovery, leading among other things towards vastly more sophisticated versions of medicine than are currently possible."

#2 – AI as a Piece of a Hybrid Skillset

While specific artificial intelligence jobs may be on the rise, there’s ample opportunity for other roles to take advantage of AI skills and tools.

“The best job opportunities will be available to those who can apply AI to their existing domain-specific knowledge of a particular field. For example, if you specialize in cybersecurity, injecting AI into the mix (e.g., for anomaly detection) will allow you to distinguish yourself in the job marketplace. AI will replace many jobs. What’s clear is that it won’t replace… well, AI jobs,” Cangiano said.

This trend echoes insights from the Hybrid Job Economy Report from Burning Glass Technologies, which states that hybrid jobs are almost universally the fastest-growing and highest-payingand also the most resistant to automation. Data science has had a similar trajectory, fast becoming one of the most in-demand hybrid skills for roles across disciplines and industries.

#3 – AI + Another Buzzword

In a 2014 article, founder and executive editor of Wired Magazine Kevin Kelly wrote “There is almost nothing we can think of that cannot be made new, different, or interesting by infusing it with some extra IQ. In fact, the business plans of the next 10,000 startups are easy to forecast: Take X and add AI.”

Cangiano cites this quote in his predictions, foreseeing predictive analytics and machine learning being applied to fields that are “hot” on their own merits, such as cybersecurity and healthcare.

“Now that they are more mature, despite having passed their hype phase, I can also see chatbots becoming increasingly more popular in practice. Particularly in their voice-enabled incarnations which are part of larger customer support automation efforts,” Cangiano said.

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