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The subject of artificial intelligence (AI) is being discussed everywhere in the media. Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates regularly sound the alarm about AI as an existential threat to humankind. Open a newspaper, turn on the television, or log on to the internet, and you will find a plethora of information and opinions on AI and its potential impact on human endeavors. In addition to being a hot topic in the media, the scholarly literature in medicine and law is replete with AI research. It acknowledges AI as a transformative, if not disruptive, game changer. AI is being used today in the practice of law—in areas of contract review, billing, and jury selection. In the field of medicine, AI’s ability to crunch massive datasets has allowed it to surpass humans in diagnostic capabilities. Educators in law and medicine have also acknowledged that AI is changing the way professionals are trained, and it will ultimately reduce the number of lawyers and doctors needed in the workforce of the future.

That said, the topic of AI is not everywhere—it’s not in the library literature. Oddly, for a profession that has done more than its share of coping with disruptive technologies over the years, we librarians are not in any meaningful way discussing AI as compared to those in other professions. We have not developed any substantial research on this topic nor have our library schools acknowledged the possibility of reducing admissions. Capability for machine learning, natural language processing, and massive computing power are the three aspects of AI that impact the professions of law and medicine. These will likewise impact the profession of librarianship.

We were curious: Why is there a paucity of discussion about AI in our professional literature? In order to understand this, we surveyed our colleagues on their perception of AI, specifically as it relates to the future, the potential impact on our work, and the numbers in the workforce.


Computers in Libraries

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Available for download on Friday, April 06, 2018