Viewpoint: With restructuring and retraining, AI will enhance — not steal — jobs

Seemingly every artificial intelligence-powered discovery is met by a renewed wave of fear that robots will soon take over in the workplace, making human employees obsolete. In reality, according to Erik Brynjolfsson, PhD, director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, as long as companies are prepared to restructure and retrain as necessary, AI will be a boon, rather than a menace, at work.

In an interview with Wired, Dr. Brynjolfsson described how, especially in the field of healthcare, AI and robotics should be seen as a tool not only to improve accuracy, but also to free up humans to complete other, more in-depth tasks.

"A machine learning algorithm might be 97 percent accurate and a human might be 95 percent accurate, and you might think, OK, have the machine do it," he said of analyzing medical images in radiology. "You're better off having the machine do it and then a human check it afterwards. Then you go from 97 percent to 99 percent accuracy because humans and machines make different kinds of mistakes."

Beyond that, the human radiologist will do a much more efficient job on their own when it comes to comforting patients and coordinating with other physicians — essentially, any task requiring human connection. Successfully incorporating AI into the workplace, then, will require some restructuring and, if necessary, retraining to ensure humans are in positions where they are most needed.

"I think it's a little bit of a lazy mindset to look at a business process or a job and just sort of say, OK, how can a machine do that whole thing? That's rarely the right answer," Dr. Brynjolfsson said. "Usually the right answer requires a little more creativity, which is how can we redesign the process so parts of it can be done by a machine really effectively and other parts are done by a human really effectively, and they fit together in a new way."

More articles about AI:
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IBM stops development, sales of Watson for Drug Discovery
Study: Crowdsourced AI faster than humans in segmenting cancerous lung tumors

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