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Is Artificial Intelligence a Positive or Negative for Prospective Engineering Careers?

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With so much conversation around whether some of the most exciting jobs of the coming years even exist yet, even prospective engineers may be wondering what the future may look like.

Admittedly, no matter the specific engineering discipline, there will be numerous tasks and functions that may become more efficient and cost-effective when undertaken by artificial intelligence.

However, there’s every reason to believe that new technology will make life easier and certainly not serve as a complete replacement.

Enhancement Not Replacement

Some studies, including one from Stanford University, suggest that AI and other technologies are unlikely to replace all that many jobs at all in the coming decades.

While engineers are rightly concerned that their jobs may come under threat, many predictions believe that the focus will be on the betterment of society, not on the outright replacement of functional roles.

If anything, the increased usage of artificial intelligence in the engineering world should serve as another critical reason to consider it as a potential career. Performing well and fulfilling potential on projects will become more accessible than ever before.

In addition, employees will be free to focus on the bigger picture and grander strategies while technology takes care of the simpler yet still time-consuming parts of the job.

Indeed, many of the more mundane tasks of yesteryear have already been taken over by artificial intelligence, but it’s no replacement for skilled workers.

Parts of the job like model building and experiment management already perform well and can contribute significantly to faster, more accurate turnarounds. Similarly, AI has taken care of significant elements of the design phase in many projects.

AI Engineering Careers

Of course, the increased adoption of artificial intelligence requires skilled individuals to monitor, manage and create. Speculation suggests that there’s a 10% chance that AI will become more intelligent than humans in the next few years.

However, even when looking 45 years into the future, it remains 50-50 on whether such a takeover will come to pass.

There are certainly signs of potential. AI is already better at some things than humans. For example, computers can already beat most people at chess. Driverless cars have advanced in technology and quality, and while they’re not yet ready to replace people, they’re seemingly well on their way.

With odds like that, it’s definitely worth considering an engineering career that specializes more than most in AI itself. Unsurprisingly, such roles are in high demand. For those interested in business, that’s where most current applications lie.

There’s a steep crossover with programming and data science, but it retains the development, deployment, and testing elements that make engineering such an appealing career.

A popular career path here is machine learning engineering, which involves developing and maintaining complex AI systems. Many people venturing into the industry are researching what is a decision boundary and why it’s gaining so much importance in AI engineering. Furthermore, AI engineering roles involve working closely with data scientists and other AI experts to develop systems that can learn and adapt.

AI and Other Engineering Roles

There may soon come a time when engineering and artificial intelligence become inseparable. Education and certifications for the most diverse engineering roles will undoubtedly incorporate at least some AI integration. That’s not to say that anyone with ambitions to become an engineer will need to specialize in this component of the role.

However, it will have such a significant impact on day-to-day operations that there will be a baseline for what people need to know to perform their jobs effectively. Some might say that’s already the case, but it is highly likely to come to pass.

Engineering Trends Beyond AI

Anyone considering an engineering career does, of course, have to consider more than just the impact that artificial intelligence can and will have on the industry. However, in many ways, even those advancements are interlinked.

For example, climate change is perhaps the world’s hottest topic today. Engineers are already deploying AI to help develop new, more sustainable materials while also using machine learning to optimize power consumption at numerous levels.

There’s also a genuine possibility that business revenues may remain relatively low in the coming years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a result, efficiency takes on even greater importance with less to spend on grand engineering projects. Of course, as noted on multiple occasions, AI won’t replace people.

Still, they’ll free up time to make better decisions and focus on more significant challenges, even though there may not be quite as much money flowing in and out of the companies that employ them.

Things do change fast in both the engineering and AI worlds, and things could change rapidly even during the course of gaining qualifications.

For the time being, it is impossible to assess AI as anything but a positive for engineers and the wider industry.

Rather than leaving potential engineers feeling trepidation, it could become one of the most exciting opportunities in a long time – and there’s no better time than now to get in on the ground floor.

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