Are the robots coming for our jobs? Not yet… but artificial intelligence is already revolutionizing the way we work and live.
That was the takeaway for students, faculty and community members who gathered at Alaska Pacific University (APU) last month for a lecture by Dr. Dale Lehman, presented by APU’s institutes of Business and Public Policy; Health and Wellness; and Culture and Environment.
Dr. Lehman is director of the EMBA in Business Analytics at Loras College. He has taught at several universities, including a dozen years at APU, and worked for a number of telecommunications companies. He is the co-author of three books and numerous publications in the areas of microeconomics, telecommunications, and spreadsheet modeling. His current interests involve anything and everything about data, but especially issues related to open data, replicability, and visualization.
“Big data” is big business, and the crowd was captivated as Dr. Lehman laid out some truths — and busted some myths — about how data and machine learning are impacting decision making. The use of artificial intelligence (or “AI”) does make it possible for businesses to use computers to replace humans for some tasks, including some that you might find surprising. According to and The Economist, “Machines are taking control of investing — not just the humdrum buying and selling of securities, but also the commanding heights of monitoring the economy and allocating capital.” (The Rise of Financial Machines, The Economist, October 03, 2019.)
Despite its increasingly commonplace role in the world, there’s much that’s not widely understood about AI. Among the misconceptions dispelled by Dr. Lehman: That data analysis is difficult; that numbers speak for themselves; and that half of current jobs will disappear, replaced by algorithmic decision making. Algorithms, he said, do have the capability to be both “better” and “less biased” than humans when it comes to decision making, but there are implications of that ability that merit discussion.
“His lecture was powerful because Professor Lehman is clearly an expert in analytics,” said Caitlin Poindexter, an APU student who attended the lecture. “His talk packed a punch by emphasizing that we should look for more meaningful questions rather than answers, and that the numbers do not speak for themselves; interpretation and explanation are necessary.”
While it is unlikely that we will all be unemployed, replaced by AI, by the time Dr. Lehman returns for another talk at APU, his lecture left the APU community much better informed how big data is impacting our daily lives and how it can be an opportunity to help diversify our state’s economy and bring the jobs of the future to Alaska.