Artificial intelligence: Leap to next development stage or job threat?

Esther Baldwin, artificial intelligence strategist for Intel, center, William Tunstall-Pedoe, artificial intelligence entrepreneur formerly with Amazon Alexa, right, and moderator Riad Hamade, executive editor for the Middle East and Africa, Bloomberg News, at a panel discussion on ‘Robots and Us: Who Will be Doing What Tomorrow?’ at the Misk Global Forum in Riyadh on Thursday. (Photo courtesy: MGF)
Updated 17 November 2017
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Artificial intelligence: Leap to next development stage or job threat?

RIYADH: While some see artificial intelligence as a leap to the next developmental stage for humankind, many people are worried about jobs, said Riad Hamade, executive editor for the Middle East and Africa, Bloomberg News.
The young generation now wonders what type of jobs they should be looking for, especially after talk of smart cities powered by robots became so relevant.
“Robotics and artificial intelligence have different meanings to different people,” said Esther Baldwin, artificial intelligence strategist for Intel.
She argued that artificial intelligence is “nothing new,” and that people have had degrees in this topic since the 1980s.
Baldwin was speaking on the first day of the MiSK Global Forum, which brings young leaders, creators and thinkers together with established innovators to explore ways to meet challenges of change.
“It’s only in recent research breakthroughs that have made more natural language processing possible, but robots seem to be a topic that engenders more fear that they will take people’s jobs away or they may be dangerous,” she said, adding that it is important to define what a robot is.
Baldwin, who has spent over 25 years at Intel, pointed out that robots can be anything from very small automated devices, all the way up to something that is much more sophisticated.
Addressing autonomous vehicles, Baldwin asked whether they can be counted as robots with humans inside them. “A human is now inside the autonomous vehicle and it is driving the person around. So, is that a robot?”
Seeing a robot walking around any time soon is still very unlikely, said William Tunstall-Pedoe, artificial intelligence entrepreneur formerly with Amazon Alexa.
With autonomous driving, said Tunstall-Pedoe, artificial intelligence does have an impact on jobs. “Autonomous cars are replacing the jobs of millions of people,” he said, adding that computers have started to do things that previously only the human brain could do.
Jobs will change once robots come along, but Hamade argued that “it is not like it is the first time in human history that industries have changed. The horse and carriage was a huge industry and then it disappeared.”
According to Hamade, agricultural jobs in the US have been declining for 170 years, and manufacturing jobs peaked in 1979 and have been declining ever since. “However, service jobs have been steadily rising for a very long time. So, what is the difference this time?”
“From the first industrial revolution until today, we have been talking about augmenting humans, making it easier for them to do their jobs,” said Baldwin, adding: “If you look at labor productivity, I don’t know anybody who is working fewer hours today than they did 10 or 15 years ago. Other than France, which has designated a shorter work week for people, most people are working the same number of hours, and so it is really a shift in what we are doing.”
Tunstall-Pedoe argued that the only difference between change in the 19th century/early 20th century and now is the pace of change. “I think there is plenty of evidence that the pace of change is increasing.”
It is not necessarily clear that new jobs will replace current jobs as happened in the past, as no one knows for sure what is going to happen, said Tunstall-Pedoe, who advised the young audience attending the forum that “the remedy is to keep learning, be part of this technological change and adapt to it, and continue to learn new skills so you don’t get left behind. Stay on top of technology, apply AI (artificial intelligence)to your existing business.”
He said that senior management jobs that involve complex management of people, evolved technologies and entrepreneurship are going to be the last ones to be replaced, contrary to the simpler jobs that will be among the first to be replaced.
Involving more people in coding and programing is not the answer, according to Baldwin.
“We already seeing applications where AI is doing coding. I trained as an engineer, and if I look at the advancements over the life of my career, I used to have to do manual drafting. I don’t have to do that anymore, because of high-performance computing and simulation.”
Engineers, she said, like to solve and frame problems, which is a “crucial” trait for which humans cannot be replaced.
“There are two things critical for success: Desire and opportunity,” she said, adding that “it is very apparent that the leaders of this country are providing the youth with opportunity. The question is — do the youth have the desire? And when you match these two together, you can only be successful.”


Library of Makkah Grand Mosque is ‘beacon of knowledge’

Updated 26 min 19 sec ago
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Library of Makkah Grand Mosque is ‘beacon of knowledge’

  • The library at the Grand Mosque is one of the oldest libraries in the Islamic world
  • It was established during the second century (Hijri calendar) at the beginning of the Abbasid period in 160 AH

JEDDAH: The library of Makkah Grand Mosque, which is affiliated with the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque, is one of the oldest libraries in the Islamic world. It was established during the second century AH at the beginning of the Abbasid period in 160 AH.

It was named the Library of Makkah Grand Mosque in 1357 AH when King Abdul Aziz bin Abdul Rahman Al-Saud set up a committee of Makkah scholars to study its conditions and organize it in accordance with its status and importance. 

The library began under one of the domes of the Grand Mosque dedicated to the preservation of copies of the Qur’an. 

In 1357 AH the library moved for the first time outside the Grand Mosque to become affiliated with the Ministry of Hajj until 1385 AH, when it was affiliated with the General Presidency of Religious Supervision at the Grand Mosque. It then changed its name to the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque and became a public library to serve students of religion.

The establishment of the Library of Makkah Grand Mosque project near the Grand Mosque and within the historical expansion project of the Grand Mosque affirms the status of the two Holy Mosques and the state’s keenness to take care of them and of the system of services provided and the scholarly and historical importance of the library. 

The establishment of the library near the Grand Mosque came as a permanent substitute for the rented building, according to the full designs and engineering plans of the project which are reflected in the finest style, the best level and most creative design worthy of the status of the Grand Mosque and everything related to it, especially the ancient library of the Grand Mosque, which has served knowledge and scholars for about 12 centuries. 

The project is located on the Kaaba Mountain Road on the northwestern side of the services building for the third Saudi expansion project and is crossed by the first ring road.

The multi-purpose library project aims to establish a scientific center and a world-class cultural and knowledge center in the holy capital centered on a central library of 20 million titles.

The project includes the lower service floors, the transport station and several other floors. There are other components of the cultural center such as the exhibition hall, the museum, the planetarium and the galleries.

It also has a large reading hall, a multi-story tower that includes bookshops, specialized bookshelves, research and translation centers, administrative offices, a conference center and a large lecture hall with all attendant services for more than 1,000 beneficiaries.

The library’s main entrance is on the Kaaba Mountain road and from the upper deck of the expansion project building. This will directly connect with the yards of the Grand Mosque. There will also be a back entrance from the proposed road linking the site to Omar bin Abdul Aziz Street.

The project aims to create a scientific edifice and a cultural center in the Grand Mosques area to be a magnet for visitors to Makkah throughout the year.

The project reflects the interest of the leadership in science and its students and translates the efforts and projects carried out by the state in the two Holy Mosques to achieve the objectives set for them. It provides a central library of world-class orientation, using the latest technologies, including nearly 20 million volumes of “books and manuscripts” with enough reading spaces for both men and women, offering the latest in the world of research tools and services.

All potential will be harnessed to make the library a cultural center with the largest number of visitors in the region — both residents of Makkah and visitors from all over the world — by focusing on the ideal diversity between cultural uses and services required and providing services such as the planetarium, galleries and modern technology screens.

The library will have enough reading spaces for both men and women, children’s desk services, translation and research centers, high-tech storage, delivery and receipt of folders, special collections and multi-media tools, as well as specialized services of the library with the latest scientific means, a manuscripts and digital library, a department for rehabilitation and restoration of ancient manuscripts and adequate administrative space.

The library, in its present location, has 15 sections serving readers and researchers to help them access library information, books, manuscripts, periodicals, lessons and audio speeches. 

Rare books have been digitised to offer fast service in line with expansion technologies and digital information storage to accommodate 160,000 books, 5,314 original and photocopied manuscripts, 2,500, and 40,000 periodicals.

The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque has been keen that people with special needs benefit from the services provided by the library through the allocation of a pavilion that cares for the blind and the disabled with books and brochures printed in braille and audio tapes, including more than 2,300 tapes and 700 books in science and literature.