Artificial Intelligence, Privacy, And The Choices You Must Make – Forbes

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The smart use of AI requires thoughtful choices.

The smart use of AI requires thoughtful choices.


Our lives are full of trade-offs.

Speed versus accuracy. Efficiency versus predictability. Flexibility versus commitment. Surely Some versus Maybe More.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) presents us with yet another round of trade-offs. There’s no doubt about AI’s labor-saving benefits. But at what price? And are the benefits worth the price?

For some thoughtful insights we can turn to Rhonda Scharf’s book Alexa Is Stealing Your Job: The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Your Future.

In the first part of my conversation with Rhonda (see “What Role Will [Does] Artificial Intelligence Play In Your Life?”), we explored the evolution of AI in recent years. In this second part of the conversation, Rhonda addresses the all-important issue of privacy and the ways AI is already affecting career choices and opportunities.

Rodger Dean Duncan: If they’re concerned about privacy with their technology devices, what can people do? 

Rhonda Scharf

Rhonda Scharf

Morgan James

Rhonda Scharf: Turning off the geotracking on your cell phone doesn’t mean you can’t be tracked. You can be tracked through your phone’s internal compass, air pressure reading, weather reports, and more. Your location can be accurately identified, even if you are on an airplane! 

So, I say, too little, too late. Even if you refuse to use any technology at all, the fact that your cousin posted your photo online means you can be facially identified in the future. 

That doesn’t mean you have zero privacy, or that big brother is watching. You can limit the privacy invasion by shutting off your phone, passing on wearable technology, removing yourself from social media, and making sure you have no AI gadgets in your home (thermostats, smart speakers, automated plugs, motion sensors, etc.). However, you’ll remove a lot of conveniences as well as the time- and money-saving features that come with them. 

Is it worth it? For some, yes. For me, no. I’ll give up my privacy for convenience and support. My theory is that I’ve got nothing to hide, so why worry? 

Duncan: With rapid advances in AI, the choices for workers seem clear—passively wait for technology to replace their jobs, or be proactive and strategic in discovering how to use technology to create better careers. What are the keys to succeeding with the latter approach? 

Scharf: It is essential to ask a lot of questions to determine how quickly you’ll need to make changes to protect your career. 

  • Make a list of the aspects of your job that were automated 20 to 30 years ago. Look at your job now and ask yourself, objectively, what still could be automated? Remember: If you can write down a series of instructions to complete a task, it can be automated.
  • Identify what has changed in the last 18 months in terms of how you do your job. It may not be much, but it could be significant. Also, ask yourself what hasn’t changed in the last 18 months. Is this an opportunity for you?
  • Identify what piece of your job can only be handled by you. Keep your ego out of the equation and ask yourself if you have something that no one else (or no other thing) can offer. What other value do you provide that is unique to you? Where are emotions required, and where is logic required? Does your job require the ability to extrapolate from data? 

By asking yourself these key questions, you will open your eyes to your imminent future. By responding rather than reacting, you can create a better career. 

Duncan: What contributions do you expect AI to make in the fields of teaching and learning? 

If you don't want to be left behind, you'd better get educated on AI.

If you don’t want to be left behind, you’d better get educated on AI.

Morgan James

Scharf: There is undoubtedly potential for AI to impact the fields of teaching and learning through the use of systems, such as the automatic grading of papers (the same way AI can scan resumes and identify ideal applicants today). 

Imagine if droids or chatbots taught our children. Each child would have a customized learning environment, with the lessons specific to the needs of the child. Imagine having the ability to ask every single question you needed to ask, and having things explicitly explained for you. AI would know that it took you 10 percent longer than average to answer a math question about fractions. It would instinctively know you were taking a little longer to process this information, indicating you were struggling with it. The chatbot or droid would see that you needed more time or more review with that concept. Classrooms would no longer move at the speed of the slowest learners but instead move at the speed of each learner. 

Duncan: What can today’s companies learn from the Blockbuster versus Netflix experience? 

Scharf: Blockbuster was a giant in the video-rental business. But six years after its peak in the market, it filed for bankruptcy. This wasn’t because Blockbuster refused to adapt (the company added video games, video-on-demand, DVDs by mail, etc.). It was because its executives lacked vision; they adapted but didn’t forecast. 

Netflix did the opposite and forecasted its future based on the changing needs of its clients. Interesting enough, Netflix offered itself for sale to Blockbuster for only $50 million, and Blockbuster turned it down. Netflix is currently worth shy of $135 billion, which makes it the world’s most highly valued media and entertainment company. 

When we look to a future with AI, we need to look further than next week. Strategic planning needs to be strategic, not reactive. By taking a long-range view, you can stay ahead of the curve. If you haven’t employed any AI in your business at this point, you are already reactive. Jump on the bandwagon now; otherwise, you’ll end up just like Blockbuster: a great company with lousy vision. AI is your prescription for a bright future.

Next: How Will Your Career Be Impacted By Artificial Intelligence?

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