On the 8th of October, Dr. Rebecca Pope will be the key note speaker on our AI event, organized by KPMG Belgium. As KPMG UK’s Lead Data Scientist she sheds some light on the current ‘hot topic’ of Artificial Intelligence (AI) – of which she is an expert.
What does AI really mean?
It is all the hype, but what does AI really mean? Rebecca describes AI as the ability of computer programs to learn from data. This means that computers can learn to complete tasks without being explicitly pre-programmed, unlike the traditional conceptual framework of computing. “The issue is that a lot of terms are put in the same melting pot – including robotics, robotic process automation, artificial intelligence and machines…I think we need to be very careful when we are having these kind of debates about job loss and creation, and really be clear in what we are talking about.”
Will computers or AI replace humans in the labor market?
The question on all of our minds: will AI replace human labor? Rebecca shares that AI is limited to learning a single domain and doing it very well. She points out that AI systems can recognize faces as accurately as humans, but that it is a very specific task and what we need to understand is that human labor is multifaceted… "A job is a culmination of tasks that do not exist independently – and AI will allow us to augment our intelligence."
A job is a culmination of tasks that do not exist independently – and AI will allow us to augment our intelligence.
For Rebecca, it is clear that AI “it is not about replacing human beings, but allowing them to make the most effective, data-driven decisions.” And that “it will act as an opening the scope of information that humans receive and can use to make an informed decision.” It is clear for Rebecca that AI, for these reasons, will not replace human jobs but ameliorate human capacities in our everyday work.
In our recent CEO Outlook - 80% of Belgian CEO’s believe that AI will create jobs rather than destroy them. Is this too optimistic?
“It is interesting that Belgian CEOs have a significantly higher than global viewpoint of around 60%.” She reiterates that this is all in how we conceptualize a job. “We need to think about it as a linking of many different tasks that together to form an occupation”. Rebecca refers to research done looking at US census results from years 1950 to 2010. Findings show that only 1 of 270 occupations no longer exist – the ‘lift operator’. Meaning that “no one job is defined by a single task and that a job is compiled of multiple elements that can only be made more efficient”. She continued to explain that “AI is speeding up processes and reducing inefficiencies. It is a far more nuanced question than a binary: yes or no. This optimistic view we are seeing with the captains of Belgian industry is perhaps an understanding that a job is not simply a series of static tasks, and that the ‘occupation’ will continue to adapt to changing times.”
This optimistic view we are seeing with the captains of Belgian industry is perhaps an understanding that a job is not simply a series of static tasks, and that the ‘occupation’ will continue to adapt to changing times.
How should education deal with AI?
How should we adapt? Rebecca’s concern is that “we are seeing more and more digital and artificially intelligent applications at the center of numerous industries, and people don’t necessarily have the skills to be able to fully interact, understand or evaluate the output of these system, which could prove dangerous. If you don’t understand what you are interacting with, however fancy, the value of AI for a business is zero. If it people do not understand the output of the AI system they simply won’t use it”. She suggests that we need to consider “as a society how we are educating from a grass roots level, on how we are preparing our youth to enter the work landscape.”
And continues on the current system that when education is based on Reading, Writing and Arithmetic a fourth element that centers on computer literacy needs to be added– and should be added globally. She describes that “in Japan, we are seeing mass adoption of artificial intelligence and robotics. But adoption and growth is facilitated by Japan’s Governmental commitment to educate young people about coding, data and algorithmic decision making. I predict that Japan will witness huge economic gains from this educational investment in the future when the fourth industrial revolution really gets going…” and suggests we create an environment where employees and CEOs alike are encouraged to continually reskill – much like we do at KPMG. “This needs to be the fabric of our work. We must have a workplace culture where employees are able to constantly pivot and learn new skills.”