Shannon Simmons

(Rock Hill, S.C) — When people hear the term artificial intelligence (AI), they may think of Siri or Alexa, the virtual assistants that interact with people through their Apple or Amazon smart devices.

However, AI is used for much more than playing music or delivering the weather forecast. The technology has many applications, including scientific research, patient care and even brewing beer, just to name a few.

While AI does not have a singular definition, it is generally thought of as “machines that respond to stimulation consistent with traditional responses from humans, given the human capacity for contemplation, judgment and intention,” according to a 2018 Brookings report.

The impact of AI can already be felt in South Carolina, including Rock Hill.

“It (allows) definite improvements in public safety, enabling the town and the companies that do business here to do more with less,” said Rick Oppedisano president and CEO of Delta Bravo AI.

The company, South Carolina’s first specializing in artificial intelligence, provides services to a number of organizations, including Comporium Communications, AccuWeather and the South Carolina Research Authority.

“I personally love artificial intelligence. I love the technology integration into our lives,” said Andy Sember, infrastructure manager at Comporium, the Rock Hill based telecommunications company that provides telephone, internet and cable services.

Comporium started working with Delta Bravo nearly two years ago, Sember said.

“The (AI) product; it manages our databases and gives us a real time monitoring alert, it gives us predictive analytics for projected conditions in the future and that is very important from a database platform, because you want to kind of be ahead of any kind of log growth or irregular behavior of the platform itself,” said Sember.

Thus, AI is a tool Comporium is using to allow its employees to do their jobs more efficiently, so they can focus on bigger issues, according to Sember.

However, many people have concerns about the technology, especially related to predictions about how AI may affect the job market.

According to a 2019 Brookings report, roughly 25 percent of U.S. jobs, representing 36 million workers, could face a high exposure to automation and AI in the coming decades.

Additionally, a 2014 Pew Research Center study found roughly half of technology experts surveyed, 48 percent, said they “envision a future in which robots and digital agents have displaced significant numbers of both blue- and white-collar workers.”

“I think that a lot of people fear what they don’t understand and I think that really is the root of that whole ‘the robots are going to take over the world’ kind of thing,” said Sember.

However, Nicki Washington, an associate professor of computer science at Winthrop University, said she believes everyone should have some type of computing background.

“Computer science is one of the few disciplines that is totally interdisciplinary and it’s touching every other field right now,” said Washington. “If you have that skill then you’re guaranteed to have certain jobs even as a lot of positions are filtered out.”

Washington said she thinks in today’s technology-driven job market, it’s all about knowing how to retool and make one’s self more marketable.

If “you have the requisite skills to continue to tweak those tools and build those tools and create them, instead of just use them, that becomes the big difference who can create and who can just consume,” she said.