Expert Opinion - Is AI A Threat Or Otherwise?

According to a business study finding, with digital transformation fast track in our country within the next 4 years, Malaysian are expect to see approximately 45% of its GDP derived from digital products and services created directly through the use of digital technologies, such as mobility, cloud, Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI).

While organisations in Asia-Pacific are increasingly deploying emerging technologies, such as AI, certain parties foresee the digital transformation economies would affect the labour market where many types of jobs would evolve and change.

Having said so, would AI ultimately take over tasks that once required a person to do them? How shall we regard AI that on one side transforming our economies, but on another side would possibly obsolete us as workers or even as human beings? How would academics or lecturers in the School of Computing opine for this scenarios and how is the future for computing students?

“Computer Science lecturers have always been fascinated with AI. While it does not seem to be something which is impossible, learning computer science meant that AI is something that can be achieved and yet difficult to fulfil,” said Ms Sujata Navaratnam, Programme Leader and Senior Lecturer of Computing Department, the School of Computing and Creative Media (SCCM) in KDU University College.

Nevertheless, she assured us that “AI should be a tool to human beings as it helps human beings just like how the computer did when it was invented. Once upon a time, computers were seen as a threat and many quarters even believed that computers will one day take over human labour. But instead, that did not happen. Computers have now become part and parcel of the human race.”

As such, she opined, AI should complement human being’s daily life, being able to capitalize on AI fully will surely make life better, easier, more efficient and definitely more productive.
Being influenced by the mass media and opinion leaders, the statement above might be sceptically viewed as the general public would be alarmed by movies about the danger of AI like ‘The Terminator’ and ‘Ex Machina’, both of which have robots that could cause problems; and also danger warning from Elon Musk, the CEO at electric vehicle maker Tesla who has been attributed to many AI projects.

“There will always be two sides of the coin. The biggest threat one can imagine is perhaps in job loss and manipulation but with policies and proper processes in place, this could be easily moderated,” said Ms Sujata, who is a Master of software engineering and currently pursuing a PhD in Computer Security/ Machine Learning at University of Technology Malaysia (UTM).
According to her, AI will surely transform human talent in the current economy, such examples are Watson by IBM and driverless cars. “While AI might displace jobs, it will surely create new ones which are more exciting and more efficient,” she continued.

She explained, at the Department of Computing, KDU has been working closely with the industry partners to discover and determine what the future holds. AI has been named and identified throughout most of their dialogues. As such, SCCM has emphasis it in its syllabus, ensuring that the students get ample exposure and the relevant knowledge of this discipline.
“KDU computing students are exposed to a range of AI concepts and applications through their final year projects. Apart from this, KDU students are also encouraged to learn the latest developments in AI, through online platforms provided by Google such as Google AI and Machine Learning Crash Course (MLCC),” she said.

When asked about the future development of the computing students, Sujata conveyed her message in an optimist tone, “Disciplines like AI would surely give students a competitive edge as the demand for smart applications and the advent of platforms have changed the computing field tremendously. Students like those in courses like Bachelor of Computer Science (Hons) and Bachelor of Software Engineering (Hons) from SCCM in KDU University College are fully aware and exposed to the likes of AI. Cultivating the knowledge and experience will give them the best head start for their career paths.” Concluded Sujata.