Google CEO Sundar Pichai: A.I. More ‘Profound’ Than Fire, Electricity

Many technologists assume that artificial intelligence (A.I.) and machine learning will have a massive impact on how we work and play. But how big an impact? According to Google CEO Sundar Pichai, A.I. is going to become one of the biggest things ever—and he’s including the invention of fire in that assessment.

“I expect [A.I.] to play a foundational role pretty much across every aspect of our lives. You know, be it health care, be it education, be it how we manufacture things and how we consume information. And so I view it as a very profound enabling technology. You know, if you think about fire or electricity or the internet, it’s like that, but I think even more profound,” Pichai told a BBC podcast, as reported by Gizmodo

Pichai also seemed vague but hopeful about the world’s chances of using A.I. in a responsible way: “And so for you to truly solve for, you know, peaceful coexistence with A.I., you would again need over time global frameworks and constructs. And everyone will get affected the same way, just like climate. And I think that’s what will draw people together.”

As Gizmodo points out, this isn’t the first time that Pichai has compared the rise of A.I. to the invention of fire and electricity. And considering the resources that Google devotes to A.I. and machine-learning research, perhaps it’s in his best interests to play up the technology as much as possible.

If Pichai’s predictions prove correct, and A.I. fundamentally changes society, then technologists who’ve mastered A.I. skills and frameworks will become the most valued people on the planet—the equivalent of that one person in the tribe capable of striking two rocks together in just the right way to make fire, way back in the day. But even if A.I. doesn’t change the human race forever (or destroy it—hello, Skynet!), it’s still considered important by technology companies—meaning lots of opportunities for jobs over the next several years.

According to Burning Glass, which collects and analyzes millions of job postings from across the country, here’s how A.I. usage will grow within select technologist professions over the next decade: 

If you’re just starting your journey into A.I., check out Hacker Noon’s useful breakdown of A.I. from a programmer’s perspective, as well as KDNuggets’ rundown of the basic terms and the technologies involved. Microsoft’s AI School is also a useful (although Microsoft-centric) dive into everything from text analytics to object recognition. For those who are a little more advanced in their A.I. and machine-learning knowledge, check out Bloomberg’s Foundations of Machine Learninga free online course.