AI shows no signs of slowing down - here’s why students need to ride the wave
There's a lot of potential in AI that has yet to be explored. Source: Alex Knight/Unsplash

Despite artificial intelligence (AI) being woven tightly into the fabric of our daily lives – think Facebook algorithms and suggested email responses in Gmail as examples of AI in our daily life – the world has barely begun to scratch the surface of the extent of its capabilities.

Various industries are being transformed by AI and the emergence of new technologies, which means there are many new opportunities that can arise from this. This makes it a promising field for students to branch into to address the shortage of professionals in the field.

Countries such as China, Japan, Sweden, Australia, among many others, have recognised its importance and are pushing for it to be taught in universities to build a talent pipeline that’s able to tackle future demands and challenges with AI.

The Japan News reported that Japan plans to create a nationwide curriculum covering the basics of AI, which will be suitable for all of the country’s universities. The curriculum is expected to be introduced sometime next spring. The education ministry hopes some 500,000 students will study AI annually.

“Given the global trend of utilising AI for data analysis, Japan has lagged behind in fostering human resources related to artificial intelligence,” said the report.

“According to an Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry estimate, Japan had a shortage of 34,000 AI specialists as of 2018, and the shortage will further rise to a maximum of 124,000 people in 2030. There are also said to be very few top-level AI professionals in Japan.”

China’s government has also announced plans to unleash a massive number of university majors in AI and big data, cementing its position as a world leader in the field.

Meanwhile, Australia’s government is injecting over AUS$29 million to help grow and support the development of AI. Speaking to ABC News, University of New South Wales’ Professor Toby Walsh, an AI professor, said other nations such as the UK, France, Germany and China were pumping in billions of dollars towards AI and that Australia could not afford to be left behind.

As countries show their seriousness in embracing AI, reports also suggest that more and more companies are adopting or planning to adopt AI in their businesses.

A report by Webroot, an American cybersecurity company, found that approximately 74 percent of businesses across the US and Japan are already using some form of AI or machine learning (ML) to protect their organisations. In 2018, they found that 73 percent of respondents surveyed planned to use more AI/ML tools in 2019.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) notes that AI and robots could create as many jobs as they displace, estimating that some 58 million new jobs could be created by 2022.

As companies invest in AI, this can only mean demand for the right talent will also increase. A Deloitte report notes that a “Lack of AI/cognitive skills” was among the top-three concern for 31 percent of respondents who are early adopters of AI.

Some skills are needed more than others, with respondents reporting “the highest level of need for AI researchers to invent new kinds of AI algorithms and systems”.

It’s clear that the demand for AI professionals is already booming, and an increasing number of universities are already offering AI courses for students. All that’s left is for them to seize the opportunity.

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