Artificial Intelligence (AI) for everyone: Why industry experts say non-technical roles in AI are in demand
Concordia Continuing Education teamed up with experts in AI for a webinar about the importance of non-technical roles in the field. Here's what participants learned:
Tristan Glatard (TG) is co-director of Concordia’s Applied AI Institute.
Abhishek Gupta (AG) is founder of the Montreal AI Ethics Institute.
Caroline Pernelle (CP) is an AI strategist at CAE.
Why is AI important for everyone?
(TG): AI is changing different aspects of society, so it's important to understand it and, as citizens, have a say in it. It's important for AI to have people coming from diverse backgrounds — technical backgrounds, non-technical backgrounds, and also diverse control backgrounds — because AI is very much linked to data. It's important to really understand data because if we don't understand the data, then there will be a lot of shortcomings along the way.
(AG): We need to bring a diverse set of perspectives, experiences and backgrounds that complement [each other] and help address and mitigate some of the societal harms that arise from AI systems, including issues of fairness, privacy, intrusion, lack of transparency and accountability. There is no better way than to involve everybody whom these systems are going to impact, and that includes all of you, whether you have a technical or a non-technical background. It is just as central as participating in democracy to shape the outcomes in society that you want.
What excites you about the field of AI?
(TG): What’s exciting about AI is the kind of connections it enables among different people, actors and stakeholders in society. Applied AI is a very multidisciplinary field, so we’re not even only talking about technology, but how to apply technology.
(AG): What's really exciting is the potential that this has to transform not just what we do professionally for work, which ends up being half of our waking lives, but the rest of our lives too.
Why are non-technical roles important in AI?
(TG): Building a model is a very technical activity made by engineers and software developers, but I don’t think the choice of which problems AI should be applied to, how to evaluate AI, and all the decisions should be restricted to technical people. The societal impact and priorities are not best defined by technical people, and there is no reason that other people shouldn’t participate in this conversation.
Will AI affect the workflow for professionals or companies?
(TG): I think it's very difficult to predict the way technology is going to advance and impact society, but AI is already here. For me, it's more a question of how AI impacts our processes and our ways of working. And I think there's already a lot of things around, for instance, first line customers [speaking] with chatbots and other intelligent agents, facial recognition in phones and other products, automated counting systems in airports and in other places. So I think there's already a lot going on here before talking about predictions.
(CP): Yes. People are [committed to using] this tool, so they are adapting their processes to make sure that they understand the way to implement it properly.
How would you describe the present AI job market and that of the future?
(TG): The students graduating from programs involving AI have no difficulty at all finding jobs. They are in high demand on the market, and they usually make very good salaries even just after graduation. There is a lot of demand from companies that come to the Concordia Applied AI Institute and say, ‘You know there is a shortage of [workers]. We don't know how to find talent in AI.’ So I think the demand is still quite high.
(AG): Demand isn't going away. The composition of skills that will be required is shifting quite quickly in the field. Whether you come from a technical background or a non-technical background, if you're looking to work with AI or work in the AI field, make sure that you have a solid understanding of what AI systems are capable of and what they're not capable of. Learning how to take that and apply it to the real world, I think, will be a prized skill going into the future, as we start to see a lot of AI systems that will be purchased off the shelf or that will come in the form of pre-trained models.
(CP): There are plenty of opportunities. I will say that when you're looking for a job, [you may] not [be] looking for an AI job; it's [about] looking for a job that will have a component of AI in it, because now most of the tech companies are going this way and [using] AI as a tool.
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Missed our webinar? Watch it here.