When people ask business consultant George Pace if a computer will eventually replace them in the workplace, the Flemington-based IT guru is quick to respond, “Yes, if you don’t bother to do anything about it.” But Pace says that by staying a step or two ahead of ongoing changes and advancements in technology, skilled and tech savvy workers will remain marketable and gainfully employed.
Pace will host a seminar that asks the question, “Will Artificial Intelligence (AI) Take Your Job and What Can You Do About it?” at the Breakfast Club of New Jersey on Saturday, January 13, at 8 a.m. at the Days Inn Hotel Conference Center in East Brunswick. The cost is $10.
Pace was born and raised in Linden and earned an undergraduate degree from Seton Hall University and an MBA in finance from the Rutgers School of Business in Newark. An expert in information technology, Pace has been giving presentations about various aspects of IT across the state and region for more than 10 years.
However, he says his novel approach to discussing and sharing segments about the IT boom differs from traditional group discussions that tend to focus on the “here and now” facet of technology. “My presentations focus on the technology trends that will impact the marketplace and what people should do to keep pace with them,” he says.
AI, in its broadest definition, is the intelligence exhibited by machines or software. In academia it’s the study of how to create computer software that is capable of intelligent behavior. Pace says some of the most common and popular examples of AI in the past year or two include programs that have beat human beings in popular virtual games as well as board games. Last year Google created an AI program called DeepMind that beat the world’s best players at the board game “Go.” In October the company made a new version of DeepMind that learned to play Go purely by playing against itself — and defeated the old version.
It’s also showing up in more practical applications. Voice assistants such as Amazon Echo, Apple’s Siri, Google’s assistant, and Microsoft’s Cortana are all AI programs.
Prior to his presentations, Pace says he encourages participants to review suggested materials. “The highlighted texts will give participants insight and background to the presentation,” he says. While Pace doesn’t require attendees to do the “homework,” he says, “The readings will drive home the key points I will be making throughout the discussion.” In addition, he shares links to view information on his Facebook page (www.facebook.com/keeppace) and his Twitter feed, @keeppace .
Pace says that while AI will bring many benefits, it will also cause disruption — both positive and negative — in the workplace. “We have already started to see the AI-based systems have an impact on business processes in the workplace,” he says. He will highlight some the broadest areas where AI is currently being used and where it will likely continue to grow — in some cases exponentially.
Image Recognition. AI helps to understand objects, places, and people in pictures. Pace says this is a rapidly growing field that can impact dozens of industries from medicine to journalism. “Technology currently exists that can predict lung cancer in people based on current images up to 10 years before actual symptoms appear,” Pace says. And, he adds, “At least one journalism school offers a course on how to effectively use a drone for news reporting.”
Voice Recognition, or the ability of a software program to recognize and analyze spoken words and phrases and convert them into data. Comparing the popularity and convenience of touch technology iPads and iPhones, Pace says, “Voice recognition may soon become the standard in day-to-day business operations.”
Natural Language Processing (NLP) focuses on interactions between human languages and computers. Computer programs are able to understand spoken or written human speech. Voice-activated assistants use NLP to respond to users’ questions. “NLP is far reaching and pervasive technology,” he says. For example, voice assistants can play a variety of games, including tic-tac-toe, trivia games, and guessing games, with users.
Virtual Agents/Chatbots — human-like agents that can understand human conversations and perform specific business tasks. Pace says the technology is prevalent in companies with large customer service departments. “Companies like this technology because among other things, it provides for an easier and better customer service experience for consumers,” he said.
Lastly, Pace says, the tired excuses for resisting change, such as “I’ve done it this way for 20 years,” should no longer exist in the contemporary workplace. He offers this bit of advice to young professionals, millennials, and seasoned workers: “Individuals need to accept the reality that becoming lifelong career learners and adapting to immediate change is essential if you are to remain a viable and critical resource in the workplace — any workplace.”