What is Artificial Intelligence and How is it Shaping the Future?

From sci-fi myths to everyday utility, dive into AI's fascinating evolution and discover how it's reshaping our world and future.

hands on a keyboard with computer screen in view

Artificial intelligence (AI) is no longer a speculative concept. Nor is it the mad computer in the science fiction movie from decades ago. Instead, AI has slowly become such an ordinary part of everyday life that many people no longer think of it as being the least bit unusual. 

That fact alone is worthy of note. Twenty years ago, people still thought of AI as the software programs that went awry in movies such as Terminator, 2001: A Space Odyssey or Avengers: The Age of Ultron. Now, these same people use AI programs to pick movies they will most likely enjoy, run their household appliances and thermostat, and assist them in driving safer.

However, public knowledge of – and concerns about - AI leaped forward with generative AI, which is AI that can create new content. The best-known example of this is the natural processing language program ChatGPT, which can respond to questions in a conversational tone on a variety of topics (GPT stands for Generative Pre-trained Transformer).

It works much in the way Google works in terms of searching for information on a topic but with answers provided in complete sentences, paragraphs, and bullet points. You can also ask it to compose a song or draft a poem. It’s rapidly changed how people view the advantages and potential disadvantages of AI.

What is Artificial Intelligence?

So much is written about AI that it’s easy to forget what it is at its core. AI refers to software programs that simulate human intelligence through the use of algorithms, allowing it to perform tasks that typically require human intelligence. Those tasks include perception, reasoning, learning and decision-making.

The ADAS systems on a car are primitive types of AI, as are voice-controlled thermostats and virtual assistants such as Siri and Alexa. Generative AI is a leap forward, with AI-driven technology that is able to create content at the request of a human. 

AI also separates into different, distinct areas. Rule-based systems operate by a set of predefined rules to make decisions and act. Machine learning involves algorithms that learn and improve from experience without further human programming. Neural networks recognize patterns and make decisions based on data input. Deep learning is a variety of machine learning that involves neural networks that can learn from large amounts of data.

How AI Is Shaping the Future

It’s easy to find many different opinions about AI, especially since the emergence of ChatGPT. Many of which express concern about the power of AI. However, writing for Medium, Sinovation Ventures CEO Kai-Fu Lee said that “AI, like most technologies, is inherently neither good nor evil. And I believe that, like most technologies, AI will eventually produce more positive than negative impacts in our society.”

For example, he expects AI to help scientists discover new drugs and find cures for diseases much faster than human beings have done on their own. Lee and others also expect AI to make organizations more efficient and productive by automating repetitive tasks and streamlining processes, leading to savings in both money and time.

AI also is expected to free up more time for humans to focus on creativity, as well as make difficult tasks less complex. In manufacturing, factories already use robotic machinery to perform heavy lifting, saving factory workers the risk of injury.

Most of the talk about AI is speculative at this point. However, smart businesses are already finding out how to use generative AI, according to LinkedIn, including a focus on “tailored content, satisfied emotional triggers, building trust, suggesting new ideas and providing social proof.”

Jobs Created by Artificial Intelligence

A study released by Open AI, which created ChatGPT, found that generative AI will impact about half the tasks done by 49% of all workers. The study also expects that, over time, jobs in areas such as research that require a great deal of critical thinking may be replaced by AI, which performs research and makes data-based decisions at lightning speed.

Most experts believe AI may take over many entry-level jobs in areas such as bookkeeping and data entry, as well as jobs in customer service and telemarketing. As has been promised for years, people also may eventually not need to drive their cars.

However, as AI continues to grow and evolve, it also will create a wide range of new job opportunities. While some may fear that AI will replace human jobs, the reality is that it will likely create new roles that most people have not yet imagined. One of the most obvious areas is data science, which will develop algorithms, design experiments and analyze data to improve AI systems and develop new applications.

It’s also expected that the number of jobs in machine-learning engineering, software development and UX (user experience) design will increase. Various industries will also need AI specialists. For example, healthcare organizations will need specialists who understand the unique challenges and requirements of the healthcare industry, and who can develop AI systems that can improve patient outcomes and reduce costs.

Creative technology fields also will grow. Federal data already expects growth in fields such as web development and digital design. In these fields, workers will use innovative technology to solve challenges and create new, engaging digital experiences for users.

There already are jobs for prompt engineers who design and create prompts for ChatGPT and large language models (LLM), according to PC Magazine. Other new jobs include AI trainer, which trains AI-driven systems the proper way to interact with consumers as a representative of a specific company. AI auditors will ensure the information from LLMs is accurate and unbiased. Businesses will also employ machine managers to oversee AI-operated hardware and systems.

While the often apocalyptic (and, admittedly, entertaining) predictions about AI were off-base, it will dramatically change both the business and personal world in the coming decades. The key is to earn an education in a field that benefits from the potential of AI. The M.A. in Creative Technology focuses on AI and generative AI, with Program Director Ira Greenberg saying, “AI is immediately impactful right now,” whether a person works in an insurance company processing claims or is an artist generating paintings. “What we think we know about what we’re going to do with AI today is probably nothing like what we’re going to do with it in three or four years,” says Greenberg.