Home Technology Afraid AI Will Replace You? Don’t Be, Says This Entrepreneur

Afraid AI Will Replace You? Don’t Be, Says This Entrepreneur

This entrepreneur believes that we shouldn't be afraid of AI coming for our jobs--but that's no excuse for missing the AI train.

By Inc.Arabia Staff
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In 2023 and the first month and a half of 2024, Big Tech laid off thousands of workers. For some, that has resulted in rising disillusionment in the sector. For others, it’s creating anxiety around what many see as AI coming for their jobs.

And while a host of other jobs are being created, significant upskilling will be required to match candidates to these new roles. At least one C-suite role, chief AI officer--who is responsible for promoting AI to boost efficiency and productivity--is one high-paying job that not many people qualify for. The role, which requires a strong understanding of business and strategy coupled with AI deployment and ethics, has companies scrambling to find the right candidate.  

But for those of us who lack the business acumen and technical know-how to vault our careers into senior leadership positions with AI, how do we address the anxiety around AI taking our jobs?

“People are concerned about what will happen to the job market now that AI is here. And it's a fair question. But every technological revolution requires re-skilling. As a human species, we need to continuously learn and advance and adapt to the technologies that we have,” says Hassan Sawaf, founder and CEO of US-based AI startup aiXplain.

Entrepreneur and former lecturer and senior researcher, Sawaf sold his machine translation startup AIXPLAIN AG to US-based AppTek in 2004 and relocated to the US, where he headed up AI divisions at eBay, Amazon Web Services, and Facebook before founding aiXplain. He tells us that when he built his first startup, AIXPLAIN AG, many translators were worried that machines would take their jobs. The reality, he tells us, is that machines ended up doing jobs that no human could do. They also created new jobs for translators.

“When I started at eBay, my first project was to enable eBay for new countries. We had to create 60 million lists and provide real-time translation to ensure that bidding was fair between people in India, Russia, Germany, and the US. The listings had to be available within 200 milliseconds in all these languages, and queries had to be available within 20 milliseconds. There’s no way that a human translator could have done that,” he says. These new use cases, however, created a need for quality translation and indexing to improve readability, which meant bringing in human translators, ultimately creating new opportunities.

Just as AI is taking over jobs that were previously done by humans, it is creating new opportunities for those agile enough to adopt them. 

In healthcare, for example, AI can allow doctors to tap into a reservoir of research instead of relying on their limited experience to diagnose or treat cases. “What if a doctor can benefit from all the knowledge that was acquired in the past and make smarter decisions? Doctors get better by gaining experience, so what if AI can expand their horizons? The same is true for researchers, writers, or economists,” says Sawaf. 

He compares the development of AI today to the advent of early computers, which were used exclusively by engineers. “Before 1984, engineers were the only people using computers until graphical user interfaces (GUIs) allowed a new set of users to access them. Today, everyone uses computers. AI is the next iteration of that. Today, I can talk to AI as if it’s a smart being and understands what I’m trying to do and it’s available to everyone. This is what we were dreaming of 30 years ago,” he says.

But with AI comes a host of challenges, particularly when it comes to access. Sawaf explains that access to technology and education are the keys to bridging the digital divide and countering anxiety around AI.

“Education is a critical component. So is access to technology and data. Today, you don’t need to be in one location to build strong AI. But you do need to have access to data and technology. By technology, I mean, where do I find GPUs and what are my alternatives? When it comes to data, what is proprietary and what is open-source?”

Other benefits can come from licensing data usage, he tells us, although the possibilities of that are still being explored. “If you have data but don’t have the technology, can you benefit from someone else using your data and then being licensed every time it’s used? These are the questions that we are looking at on aiXplain,” he adds.  

The real question, says Sawaf, is not whether AI will take over jobs: “The question is going to be: Is someone who is using AI better than me going to replace me? And for that reason, we need to lower the threshold so that everyone can use it and there is no excuse not to,” he says.

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