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University of Southampton Malaysia event highlights skills for Artificial Intelligence revolution


YEARS ago, we were munching on popcorn or in our pyjamas at home watching movies about Artificial Intelligence (AI), awed by how smart technology was.

Today, AI has become a reality and countries are racing to be advanced in the technology, with the application of AI said to greatly enhance levels of economic and social development, among others.

AI is developed to learn and think more like humans, and is used in specific fields including medical diagnosis, voice recognition, autonomous driving and smart city administration.

This technology will soon change the job landscape as well as impact data privacy, both now a debate among technology experts, organisations, governments and the general public.

“The most important thing is to make sure that future generations have the right skill sets to work in the AI industry,” she said at a recent talk on The Artificial Intelligence Revolution held at the Majestic Hotel, Kuala Lumpur.

Organised by University of Southampton Malaysia (UoSM), the public lecture was attended by various industry experts who brought home key takeaways from the talk.

On how future generations can prepare themselves to work in the AI industry, Prof Hall said: “You need to have people who studied maths and science, can learn how to do machine programming, do data analysis or manage the data. You need data scientists, machine learning programmers and computer scientists as well as mathematicians.

“But I want to encourage everyone to be able to work in AI. I want diversity where people coming into AI have different types of skills – it doesn’t mean everyone’s got to do science or computer science.

“However, the initial push will come from the scientists first,” she said, highlighting that AI is the coming technology.

Apart from the positive breakthroughs using AI, there are also the ethical and legal issues, privacy, security and trust as well as algorithm accountability to be considered, said Prof Hall adding that there needs to be regulation.

“This is so companies that are developing AI account for their algorithms and also tell people what their algorithms do as a matter of transparency.

“It is too early to regulate now because we might over regulate and stifle innovation but that is the sort of thing we need to worry about,” she said.

A recognised authority on AI, Prof Hall’s research in multimedia and hypermedia continues to be highly relevant to today’s technologies.

The influence of her work has been significant in many areas including digital libraries, the development of the Semantic Web, and the emerging research discipline of web science.

She was the co-chair of the UK government’s AI Review published in 2017, and has recently been announced by the UK government as the first Skills Champion for AI in the UK.

“I think machines are going to be capable of doing the sort of things we do, and we need to be wary of that future, today.

“We need to get it right today so that we work with the machines and we don’t actually start developing AIs and machines that have their own intelligence, in a way that will destroy the human race.

“If machines do become as intelligent as we are, then by definition that’s the end of us as a human race because machines can evolve.

“If you have a machine that can think for itself and evolve itself, then they evolve much faster than us, and we could become slaves of the machines rather than masters of the machines,” said Prof Hall.