Significant skills: Stand out in the world of AI
A recent article by Cybernews caught my attention regarding the fight against automation in our ever-evolving technological world. We have seen the AI boom that has erupted in recent years with Open AI’s ChatGPT, Google's large language models, and so many more. But what does this mean for us? According to Goldman Sachs, almost 300 million jobs could be lost to automation, and “roughly two-thirds of U.S. occupations are exposed to some degree of automation by AI.” Intimidating, isn’t it? But there’s no need to fret. There are some qualities that AI can’t emulate. We at Cybernews Academy want to discuss the skills you can develop at university that help you stand out from any chatbot. At university, you develop various valuable skills to take into the workforce. Alongside technical skills like programming and the fundamentals of computer science, you learn a range of soft skills that make attending university worth it.
- Collaboration - the ability to work with others in a team, form relationships, and network with others.
- Creativity - the ability to use your imagination to create something organic and unique.
- Empathy - the ability to put yourself in someone’s shoes and observe situations from various perspectives to work toward a solution to a pressing problem.
- Critical thinking - the ability to analyze information and facts to form a judgment or argument.
- Adaptability - the ability to change and adjust to new conditions and situations.
- Leadership - the ability to lead, influence, or guide a group to a common goal.
Human vs. Robot
There are various computing skills you can master at university. Skills like programming, technical writing, and analysis are threatened by artificial intelligence. AI is becoming more adept at these skills each day, which leads to an overwhelming sense of anxiety and potential job insecurity. However, there are skills that AI cannot take away from us, vital skills that will help you secure your dream job post-graduation.
A famous quote from poet John Donne states, ‘No man is an island. Entire of itself, Every man is a piece of the continent, A part of the main.’ This pertains to our innate ability to collaborate and connect naturally with one another. This is something that a robot lacks. Through collaboration, we forge emotional connections that drive innovation through passion and creativity. A robot is an island entirely of itself. A robot cannot collaborate on a human level and constantly looks for the best and binary answer to the most complex questions.
Student Anastasia Runova once said in an interview with Cybernews Academy, “Computer science is a team sport.” Universities achieve this sense of collaboration via various methods. Many universities encourage students to work in groups as opposed to working individually, whether this be through group projects or workshops. Networking is also a massive part of university life. You will meet new people from various walks of life with a diverse range of skills. On top of this networking potential, all institutions offer a range of clubs and societies that promote collaboration and knowledge sharing. These societies simulate the industry and can help you assimilate into a collaborative work environment post-graduation.
Robots can manufacture code, text, and even images from prompts. This is incredible, but is it creative? First, let’s define creativity. The Cambridge Dictionary asserts creativity as “the ability to produce or use original and unusual ideas.” AI is trained on specific data sets, which means that large language models and other artificial intelligence models are reforming and regurgitating information. Sound unique or original? I don’t think so. Creativity is a messy process that requires original thinking and a melting pot of ideas combined to create something incredible.
At university, you must harness your natural creativity to solve problems quickly and efficiently. Whether that’s fixing a bug in your code or coming up with incredible ideas during a hackathon, creativity is an essential facet of your academic and professional life. Universities facilitate creativity through their modules and curriculum structure. In computer science and information technology degrees, your professor may present you with various problems that must be solved creatively. In addition, many universities host hackathons, an event where students and professionals utilize their creativity to solve an industry problem. Remember, creative people tend to stand out, which is extremely important when applying for a job post-graduation.
Chatbots and large language models are incredible analysts, technical writers, and coders. However, they are devoid of empathy. Arguably, empathy is one of the most overlooked skills that helps you evolve as an academic and professional. Software Engineer Kenneth Seals-Nutt revealed that empathy is one of the most valuable skills he learned while studying and working. He said this skill gave him an edge over the competition as he could adequately empathize with stakeholders and other team members. This empathy allowed him to assess his situation from all angles and put himself in the shoes of his colleagues.
Empathy allows us to see from the point of view of others and gain insight into a problem that may need solving. Universities encourage empathy through their course structure and modules, as universities will often include course materials that promote empathy. Working in groups and participating in a range of cultural societies are two ways that universities support the development of empathy in and outside of the classroom.
Critical thinking at…
According to Times Higher Education, “AI cannot think critically because it does not know what to value, has a bias towards fairness, and most certainly cannot reflect on its own thoughts.” This statement is true in some regard, as AI cannot think for itself; therefore, it cannot ruminate on the information provided and come up with conclusions surrounding data. Whether AI is biased towards fairness is debatable. However, AI does appear to seek an objective, binary conclusion when processing information. Critical thinking requires different perspectives to exhaust all aspects of the data provided.
Critical thinking is an essential facet of higher education as you are often required to challenge the information presented. University opens you to various alternate possibilities and forces you to explore all eventualities. Some of the ways universities encourage critical thinking is through open discussions about a particular subject. Professors will often ask questions, establish the facts, and test the boundaries of what we understand the facts to be. As the student, you will be expected to do the same by presenting an argument and giving evidence for this argument based on the facts. Critical thinking can also be developed through societies like the debate club, where you are presented with facts and must argue your point of view.
The ability to be adaptable is becoming increasingly important in this fast-evolving digital landscape. Adaptability is something AI struggles with. Look at large language models. Unless programmed and updated to do so, they are incapable of freely adapting to the changing times. Furthermore, large language models often lack relevant and up-to-date information, which may contain biases that don’t reflect the sentiments of modern society. Humans are continually adapting to new technologies and learning new skills.
University is the home of learning new skills and adapting to constant change. As turbulent and tumultuous as your time at university may be, this only reflects the incredibly diverse and ever-changing nature of the industry. During seminars, projects, or lectures, you may be asked to complete something or give your point of view on a topic with no warning. You will then have to adapt to this situation and model your answer based on the problem you are faced with. Similarly, adapting to a new environment is a massive challenge when attending university. You will inevitably adjust and change your thinking based on your environment as you will be confronted with new people, cultures, and experiences.
Thankfully, robots have not developed the ability to lead the pack (as of yet). As expressed previously, large language models and other artificial intelligence models are trained on data that we humans provide. This means we are the natural leaders who guide artificial intelligence in the direction we want them to be led. Artificial intelligence is devoid of agency. Instead, AI works to serve us and make our lives easier by automating menial tasks. When artificial intelligence has developed all of the aforementioned skills, such as empathy, collaboration, adaptability, communication, creativity, and critical thinking – only then will this automaton ascend to leadership status.
Developing leadership skills at university has never been easier. Many universities give their students the option to create their societies and clubs on campus. You could become head of the Women in Computer Science Society at your university or create an entirely new organization based on your interests. Leadership is a significant skill cultivated at university. Throughout higher education, you may have to lead a team as you complete a group project. Many competitions are available to those interested in computer science and information technologies. You could lead your team to victory during a hackathon or science fair. Perhaps you’re exhausted from all the computer science classes, but you’re still interested in leading a team to victory. You can join your university’s sports societies and become a team captain. One major part of leadership is initiative, so show some initiative and volunteer or get a part-time job on campus. You may take on a managerial position, which will provide some experience before you enter the workforce.
AI has captivated the world as of late due to its ability to perform human tasks in a faster and more efficient way. Our society is often preoccupied with efficiency and speed, indicative of our need for short-form content and our fast-paced lifestyles. However, artificial intelligence doesn’t detract from our innate human abilities. These methodical machines can churn out information rapidly, produce images from text, and craft code. Yet these systems cannot think for themselves, learn new things without our permission, and lack autonomy. Your workplace rarely expects you to churn out information as quickly as possible. Post-graduate work concerns all the skills you learned at university – your willingness to collaborate, think critically, empathize with others, and all the skills in between.