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Limiting Risks in Adopting AI

Enterprises and consumers are poised to adopt artificial intelligence in 2017. But along with many potential benefits, AI increases the attack surface, placing additional strain on the already thinly spread cybersecurity workforce. Finding and developing security professionals with the right skills and training is essential for organizations to limit risk.

By: Robert Clyde

Advancements in artificial intelligence have created anxiety for workers across the globe.

That is understandable, considering we already have seen automation render humans obsolete – or at least expendable – in many fields, and the fear is that trend will accelerate as technology powering AI becomes increasingly sophisticated.

But while some workers have legitimate cause for concern, AI and robotics will present great opportunities for those who pursue the skills and training needed to keep pace with a technology-driven economy. Much like the industrial age automated many of the routine tasks in manufacturing, AI can be a huge productivity multiplier in the information age – provided we develop the caliber of workforce capable of taking advantage.

AI is only as effective as the people who fine-tune and implement it, increasing the need for a robust, skilled technology workforce. Even many of AI’s celebrated successes have underscored the importance of a human touch.

Famed teaching assistant Jill Watson – unbeknownst to “her” Georgia Tech students – was actually an AI device designed to help answer students’ questions in, fittingly enough, a class about artificial intelligence. While Watson eventually earned favorable reviews, she was useless in the first few weeks of the course, requiring adjustments from the research team to make her responses more accurate and contextual.

A skilled workforce isn’t just essential to ensure that AI is effective. Perhaps even more importantly, humans are needed to make AI safe.

As is the case for many emerging technologies, AI can be a double-edged sword when considering the critical area of cybersecurity. The growing footprint of AI increases the threat of cyber attacks since more code means a larger attack surface. In the 2016 ISACA/RSA Conference State of Cybersecurity Study, more than three in five respondents indicated AI will increase security risks in the long-term.

This is a real concern considering the already strained cyber workforce. Six out of 10 respondents in the ISACA/RSA survey did not think their security staffs could handle anything beyond simple cybersecurity incidents, and it took more than one in four organizations six months to fill a cybersecurity position.

While the education system struggles to catch up with the curriculum needed to prepare students for the next decade’s in-demand jobs, aspiring technology workers will need to put forth extra effort to pursue relevant professional development opportunities. Security professionals with the right training and certifications will be able to amplify their impact by harnessing AI technology, which can help alert them to cyber threats in time to take the appropriate action.

There must be a sense of urgency, as businesses and consumers alike are poised to embrace rapid adoption of AI in 2017. The ability to accomplish more with less effort is irresistible to both groups, as all of us who leverage AI to answer monotonous questions on a tax form, ask Siri where is the nearest pharmacy or have a movie recommended to us on Netflix can appreciate.

And speaking of movies, AI and robotics have the tendency to put people in an apocalyptic frame of mind, bringing to mind scenarios such as the one depicted in “The Terminator.”

Don’t count on such a calamity playing out beyond the silver screen, however – at least not in our lifetimes. These AI devices lack the attributes to become the type of sentient, mobile beings that would pursue world domination.

Still, when it comes to automation, there is no substitute for having a savvy human nearby who knows how to find the “off button.”


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