Create future tech

Emerging fields in technology

From Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation to quantum computing, get set for the emerging fields in technology that are transforming society.

The technologies included in AI: machine learning, automation and natural language processing (NLP), are here already – and are a big part of the working world across everything from retail to medicine. This is a rapidly growing career area: Artificial Intelligence Specialist was #1 in LinkedIn’s 2020 Emerging Job’s Report Australia, while Australia’s top five emerging jobs feature automation or AI skills.

Quantum technologies, based on the properties of materials at microscopic levels, is another emerging tech field with huge opportunities. Promising super fast computing, unhackable communications and a revolution in sensing and imaging, quantum technologies offer an incredibly fast moving and exciting field with career opportunities in defence, mining, health, tech companies, science research labs, space tech and much more.

There are 20 Australian research institutions and 14 universities working in quantum technologies, and 16 private companies – either university spin-offs or offshoots of overseas giants like Microsoft or IBM, all looking to bring quantum technologies to market. A May 2020 report, Growing Australia’s Quantum Technology Industry, predicts the sector will grow into a $4 billion industry by 2040, creating some 16,000 jobs.

Emerging tech FAQ

What is machine learning?

Machine learning is the process where applications use data to learn. Things like: predicting stock market changes, personalising shopping experiences, analysing social trends like cyberbullying or instances of disease outbreaks, and recognising and identifying images, including facial recognition. 

Natural language processing uses machine learning to analyse, generate and even create new text. This is machine learning in action. NLP is also used to recognise and translate languages, like Google translate. 

RELATED: Considering a career in machine learning?

What is automation?

Automation means making repetitive processes automatic and minimising human input into tasks – in anywhere from the manufacturing line to data entry or even housework.

What do people working in AI do?

  • Manage data and find ways to automate processes
  • Keep an eye on the ethics of AI and privacy of data
  • Use data and machine learning to predict outcomes

What do people working in quantum technology do?

  • Research fundamental physics
  • Set up and automate quantum systems
  • Develop ways to move from classical computing and other technologies to quantum technologies

What skills do you need to work in emerging technology?

  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Being a thorough and analytical thinker
  • Able to learn on the job

Where is AI and quantum technologies used?

1. Social media – AI

Researchers from Cornell University used machine learning to analyse trends in fashion using a data set of 100 million Instagram photos over a three-year period. What did they find out? Red was less popular, people with white t-shirts more often wear glasses, black and brown are more often worn in winter while white and blue are more common in summer.

Queensland University of Technology’s Richi Nayak and her colleagues analysed 1 million tweets and developed an algorithm (a set of rules in computing) to detect tweets that are abusive towards women.

Rich Nayak - emerging fields in technology
Associate Professor Richi Nayak from QUT’s School of Computer Science and Centre for Data Science.

The Los Alamos National Lab in the US used machine learning to identify and track how misinformation about COVID-19 developed across Twitter in the first five months of the pandemic. The results may help to combat misinformation and prevent the viral spread of conspiracy theories.

2. Health – AI

AI is used extensively for health. Like Coviu, an Australian telehealth platform which uses machine learning to visually recognise and analyse joint movement in patients. Or chatbots that help patients navigate medical bookings and information. 

Coviu - emerging fields in technology

Interactive tech company Eko has developed an AI-assisted stethoscope that can detect heart problems more precisely. It rates 99% more accurately, compared to 70-80% by human doctors.Eko - Emerging fields in technology3. Health – quantum technologies

Quantum sensing is already delivering dazzling applications in healthcare and medicine – such as enabling early disease detection and the imaging of human biology with exquisite precision, and helping scientists get faster at discovering new drugs to treat disease. 

4. Defence – quantum technologies

Researchers at the University of Adelaide are working to create tiny atomic detectors – known as quantum magnetometers – which, anchored to the sea floor, could detect the passage of nearby submarines and alert coastal defences. 

AI myths BUSTED

#1 AI is taking away jobs – FALSE!

By 2025 there will be 97 million more jobs created compared to 85 million displaced positions as a result of AI according to a 2020 World Economic Forum report Future of Jobs report. What will go? Tasks that can be automated, like driving heavy machinery, data entry and assembly line work in factories. What will rise? Jobs that rely on data and automation, like data scientists, digital marketers and process engineers.

DYK? Jobs recruiters in AI emphasise creativity and emotional intelligence and the ability to learn on the job, but also require digital skills.

#2 AI can be biased – FALSE!

Machine learning will produce biased results if it’s working with biased data. Bias in AI can seem obvious to us. Like when Microsoft’s Twitter chatbot started producing racist and offensive tweets within hours of its release in 2016. This can happen because of inherent bias in historical data (like tweets). Uncovering bias is an essential human part of AI. 

RELATED: Quiz – How much do you know about artificial intelligence?

Wanna work in emerging technologies?

Here’s your high school electives list:

  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Digital technologies
  • Design & tech
  • STEM

What to study after school

  • Bachelor of Science (Physics), QUT
  • Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) (Quantum Engineering), UNSW
  • Bachelor of Software Engineering in Artificial Intelligence, Media Design School, Auckland

Job outlook

  • Machine learning engineer: AU$59K – $132K and NZ$46K-62K
  • Data scientist: AU$62K – $130K and NZ$52K – $109K
  • Mechanical engineer: AU$55K – $110K and NZ$58K – $115K

Salaries from PayScale

RELATED: Everything you need to know about the future of work

Heather Catchpole

Author: Heather Catchpole

Heather co-founded Careers with STEM publisher Refraction Media. She loves storytelling, Asian food & dogs and has reported on science stories from live volcanoes and fossil digs

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