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Blog: Humanities shining in the age of AI


Defined by Oxford Dictionaries as “the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence,” AI is tremendously and potentially beneficial. AI is changing the world on an enormous scale. It’s no wonder most tech giants are putting large investments into this field.

Recently i read an article from Times of India published on 28 march, 2019 about the role of humanity and liberal arts in the world of AI. This article is really interesting. If you had taken the humanities route to stay away from the tech world, get ready to head down the latter path. In this story, i will cover how Artificial Intelligence and Digital Transformation are fueling the Demand for Arts & Humanities Graduates.

In the last few decades, Science was considered the best as it implied one was intelligent. Commerce was next and only at the very end, it was Arts & Humanities for the dunces and idiots. Even today in India, it’s a common belief that pursuing arts & humanities limits the careers options and is not beneficial monetarily. Now, it’s time to say goodbye to the age-old beliefs.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) development is reliant on engineering and science, but in order to create a product that is going to be a first touch point with customers, art and creativity, and understanding of communications — is just as important. The growth of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has opened up opportunities in the tech industry for those from liberal arts, humanities, and related areas, as companies strive to make their AI and chatbots as human as possible.

Globally, Microsoft has an entire ‘content experiences’ team designing a personality for its virtual assistant Cortana, with Hollywood screenwriter Jonathan Foster heading the effort. Liberal arts is a key requirement for the tech team, and not just a nice-to-have. It’s a mindset, not a checklist box, and technology needs a lot more of that.

It takes more than just tech prowess to enable human-machine interactions, and thus almost 10–15% of AI and big data core teams consists of creatives and humanities specialists coming from liberal arts and humanities backgrounds. Google also mentions that they focus on ensuring the AI interactions are “conversational, culturally relevant, and linguistically accurate.”

We all know about Google, the Tech Giant. But, what we might don’t know that a significant majority of Google employees hold degrees in Humanities, Linguistics, Literature, Arts, Psychology, Sociology, Philosophy etc. For Google, Soft Skills (Project Oxygen) and Emotional Intelligence (Project Aristotle) are more important than the hard skills.

Google Translate now includes more than 100 languages (103 to be exact). Google claims that this means the service, which started in April 2006, covers 99% of the online population. Do you think the Google Translate product works only because of coders and engineers? To provide this service, Google needs more Linguistics and Foreign Language majors than techies.

The tech giant has been a long-time believer of marrying the principles of liberal arts with engineering to get the best out of AI, and reduce bias. Analysts say ensuring seamless human-machine interactions requires sound semantics analysis and empathy, best provided by humanities discipline. UX design is a critical differentiator between chatbots in the market, and creatives help offer the edge.

Educational institutions in the humanities realm also note increased industry-academia interaction in recent times, a rarity in the field. IIT-Madras’ humanities department is in final stages of collaborating with tech giant TCS for memory studies, and expects this to open up internships and employment opportunities for their students. This trend is a major opportunity for those pursuing liberal arts.

The tech world was an opportunity to be paid to write, which was a completely unexpected turn of events for someone who’d recently gathered a liberal arts degree.

Image Source: Fuccha

Source: Artificial Intelligence on Medium

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