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The Student Insider

The AI Revolution

Date

Written by
Allie Fitzgibbon

We have reached a point where technology touches almost every part of our lives. The way we work, travel, communicate and live are becoming increasingly digitised and advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) will only escalate this transformation to a digital existence.

An eye looking at data code

AI is widely considered to be one of the biggest commercial opportunities in today’s economy, and it is predicted that it will add more than £230 billion to the UK GDP by 2030. But what impact will this new wave of technology have on jobs in the future? And how will it affect our lives and our society?

These are some of the questions that will be explored in a new MSc in Data Science and Artificial Intelligence, launched by the University of London and member institution, Goldsmiths. The programme is one of three pathways on offer – along with pure data science and data science and financial technology.

Artificial brains can process an unbelievable amount of data and therefore can make more informed decisions. However, humans continue to have an important part to play. The major role of a data scientist is to work with data – collecting, analysing and interpreting it for senior managers.

Dr Larisa Soldatova, Programme Director, has worked in AI for more than 20 years, specifically examining its application to life sciences. She led the European project AdaLab for four years, focussing on how AI can be used to run automated experiments and was also involved in the high-profile robot scientist, named Adam, which made the first ever automated scientific discovery.

Dr Soldatova explained why AI, and its use within data science, is often misunderstood.

“There are misconceptions at all levels about artificial intelligence. Some people are over enthusiastic and think it can solve every problem in the world. Others are in complete disbelief and denial that it’s possible for computers to be creative enough to replicate human actions and decisions. The truth is somewhere in between.

“There has been amazing progress in the field and it is hard to think of any job that cannot be completed by a machine – from medical operations to drawing up legal contracts. Machines are logical and transparent. Humans are messy and unpredictable.

“But we must remember that humans are better in so many areas because we are all different. My interest is in the potential advantages of combining human intelligence with AI.

“In an area like treating cancer patients where decisions must be made very quickly, there are real benefits of incorporating machines that can process data so much faster than a human."

Beyond the expanding share of the global market now taken by AI, the technology is also having a significant impact on the way businesses operate. But far from computers replacing people in the workplace, Dr Soldatova believes companies must invest in their workforce as much as in new technologies.

“Artificial brains can process an unbelievable amount of data and therefore can make more informed decisions. However, humans continue to have an important part to play. The major role of a data scientist is to work with data – collecting, analysing and interpreting it for senior managers. But in order to collect the right data in the right way they have to be able to work with people to understand how it will be used. Companies should certainly be investing in the technology but they must also invest in the expertise behind the tech.”

There has been amazing progress in the field and it is hard to think of any job that cannot be completed by a machine – from medical operations to drawing up legal contracts.

Perhaps one of the biggest criticisms levelled against corporations at present is about their collection and use of our data without our consent. Will the use of intelligent machines that can process data so much faster than a human contribute to this growing issue? Dr Soldatova argues that the next generation of data scientists will have a responsibility to work ethically, particularly while legislation catches up with the technology.

“I think there is some truth in the concerns raised about the impact of AI systems on society. We are scientists, we get excited by the tech and assume someone else will take care of the social implications but when the technology progresses so fast that doesn’t happen. We’re in a position where countries are now racing to find new programmes but regulations need to catch up.

“I am particularly proud of this master’s programme because we have a topic specifically dedicated to the ethical and legal issues surrounding data science and our students will be well prepared for developments in the field. It will be important for them to work in an ethical way and to lead by example within their own industries.”

Find out more about the MSc in Data Science.