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June 13, 2024 - 17 minutes

Everything You Need to Know about AI (But Are Afraid to Ask)

Check in on the future of AI with Ironhack's CEO, Ariel Quinones

Ellen Merryweather - Senior Content Manager

Artificial Intelligence


  • AI and Human Augmentation: AI is more about augmenting human potential rather than entirely displacing humans. Creativity, intuition, problem-solving skills, and empathy are hard to replace with AI.

  • Historical Context: Concerns about technological unemployment date back to the 1930s. Historical technological revolutions (agricultural, industrial, digital) have led to productivity gains, economic growth, and overall prosperity.

  • Embrace Lifelong Learning: Constantly staying updated with new technologies and continuously learning is crucial for staying competitive in the job market.

  • AI's Impact on Jobs: AI will impact all industries and roles. Lifelong learning and adaptability are key to thriving in this dynamic economy.

  • Integration of AI in Education: Ironhack is integrating AI concepts and tools into all bootcamps, developing new AI-specific bootcamps, and creating shorter AI courses for diverse audiences.

  • Personalized AI Applications: Excitement about seamless integration of data into AI models for personalized recommendations in both professional and personal contexts.

  • Ethical Considerations: The importance of ethical use of AI, transparency, open models, and ensuring end users are well-informed to hold stakeholders accountable.

  • Future-proofing Careers: Learning AI skills is essential for future-proofing careers, maximizing earning potential, and working on impactful, innovative projects.

Everything You Need to Know about AI:

Catch up on the full interview right here! Don't forget to check out the rest of our online events, and be the first to know the latest in tech.

Are we all going to be replaced by robots?

Ellie: (0:00 - 0:25)
Hi everyone, welcome, thank you so much for joining us. We are here with a very special guest to talk about a very cool topic: AI and the future, the tech industry, the world, everything in one. We are here with Ariel, who is the co-founder and CEO of Ironhack. Ariel, thank you so much for joining us.

Ariel: (0:25 - 0:35)
Thank you, Ellie, it's a pleasure to be here today. Big topic indeed, things are moving really fast, so hopefully, we can share some interesting insights and maybe learn together.

Ellie: (0:36 - 0:57)
Hopefully nothing huge changes by the time we finish this conversation and it's already outdated! So, to start off, I want to address the elephant in the room, and probably this is a question that future generations are going to laugh at us for asking, but we have to start here anyway. Are we all about to be replaced by robots?

Ariel: (0:59 - 1:02)

I'm kidding.

Ellie: (1:03 - 1:03)
The end is nigh.

Ariel: (1:04 - 2:03)
We're in the very early stages of this AI revolution, specifically Gen AI. And while it's true that we can anticipate more tasks being automated by robots, machines, AI, whatever you want to call it, the reality is that most of the use cases and applications that we're seeing today are really about augmenting the potential of humans, not really entirely displacing them, speaking in general terms. I think it's going to be really hard in the short to medium term to replace the creativity, the intuition, the problem-solving skills, and the empathy that human beings bring to the table. So, I'm not particularly concerned anytime soon.

Ellie: (2:04 - 2:33)
It's sort of like being scared of AI and the tools that we've been handed. It's similar to, I imagine when the printing press arrived, if anyone was scared of the printing press, saying, "Oh no, it's going to take our jobs." How ridiculous. Or even when the internet came along, the old fuddy-duddies going, "No, I'm not going to look anything up on Google. I'm going to stay in the library, referencing by hand." I imagine it's that kind of hesitation that we're seeing.

Ariel: (2:33 - 3:16)
Totally. I've been brushing up on some history books, and it was interesting to find that dating back to the 1930s, almost 100 years ago, we were already talking about this concept of technological unemployment, right? This was the concept and fear that machines, that technology would entirely displace humans and create, as a result, unemployment. Obviously, a lot of things have happened in the last 100 years, and I think it's hard to argue that there are fewer jobs today.

What can we learn from past innovations?

Ellie: (3:16 - 3:49)
Absolutely. So, well, this segues to my next question very nicely about history. What can we learn from history repeating itself? Although the tech and the things that we're seeing come out of it with AI are kind of unprecedented, because it's surprising us every single day, disruption is part of tech industry life. There's always something new, there's always something big. Maybe not something this big for a while, but what can we learn from history repeating itself? What patterns do we usually see when something like this hits?

Ariel: (3:49 - 5:06)
Yes, I think there are clear patterns, not only related to history and technology, but really us as humans in our ability or inability to process uncertainty. One thing that holds true from the last century is that anytime we have technological disruption, we have a mix of excitement and fear and concern. Yet, time and time again, we've seen this in the agricultural revolution, the industrial revolution, the early internet days, and the digital revolution. These revolutions end up resulting in productivity gains, economic growth, and overall prosperity. So, even though we can anticipate disruptions and displacements in the marketplace, we can also anticipate a lot of opportunities and growth as a result of this AI transformation and revolution that's currently just getting started.

Ellie: (5:06 - 5:34)
Absolutely, and I think for us at Ironhack in the education space, there's this balance for us of empathizing with people's uncertainty whilst not giving in to the doom and gloom and the fear. It's a balance of, okay, there's clearly some things to think through, and there are things that we have to work on, problems that we have to solve, challenges to overcome, but at the same time, it's just so exciting. The potential of this technology is enormous.

Ariel: (5:34 - 6:10)
Listen, we're proud to have been operating now for over a decade, and in those 10 years, we've seen time and time again that change is a constant. Human beings and the industries and companies created by human beings are incredibly adaptive and creative in adjusting to shifts in the market, shifts due to innovation and technology. We've been there before, and I don't think this time is any different.

Ellie: (6:11 - 6:16)
If you don't like heat, get out of the kitchen. If you don't like change, get out of the tech industry.

Ariel: (6:17 - 6:17)
Get out of tech, for sure.

What's the impact of AI on the tech job market?

Ellie: (6:18 - 6:35)
Absolutely. So, from a job hunting perspective, because I know the vast majority of people in our community are either people wanting to break into tech or freshly broken into tech, from a job hunting perspective, what do you think is AI's impact on the job market? What should people hoping to break into tech know?

Ariel: (6:36 - 9:22)
Yeah, as I said, we're just getting started, so the first thing we can anticipate is a lot of change, and the pace and velocity of change is getting faster. I remember reading a book maybe 10 years ago from Peter Diamandis called "Abundance," and one of the themes of the book was that we're hitting an inflection point in terms of the pace of innovation.

We're going to see all these breakthrough technologies build on top of each other, and the level of change will increase dramatically in the next couple of years. It's safe to assume that the roles of the past decade are likely to be different and will continue to evolve in the coming decades. I'm sad or excited to share that I think all industries will be impacted by these changes, some roles more than others, but I can't think of one industry where change will not come into play due to these transformations

What I'll say in terms of state of mind and approach to these types of situations is quite frankly something that we've been saying as an organization and to our students and the community for over 10 years now, which is embrace lifelong learning. I don't care if you think you know everything there is to know about programming or data science; it is pivotal, it is crucial that you continue to stay abreast of what's happening in the market, and AI is certainly no exception.

So I'm really encouraging everybody, regardless of your career track or personal interests, to really get to know a little bit more about the foundations of AI, some of the applications, and to actually play with the tools and the technologies yourself. That ability to keep learning and keep tinkering with these groundbreaking technologies will allow you to move at the pace, if not faster, than the marketplace and really stay competitive wherever the market will go, which is really hard to predict. But that ability to constantly educate ourselves and learn fast will be a key determinant factor in succeeding in this dynamic economy.

Ellie: (9:23 - 10:06)
Absolutely. One of the things that I'm most excited about with AI is how, as you said, it impacts every industry, but more than every industry, it's also every single role, even the non-technical roles. So you can really, if you're interested in AI, you can get into it like in the shallow end of the AI pool, or you can dive into the deep end, whether you want to be the person training machine learning models or you're a digital marketer using ChatGPT to make your life easier. There's so much variety and range, and I know that's something that we talk about a lot with our courses and just about tech in general, the diversity of the roles and the things that you can do. I would just say that the same is for AI, it touches everything at every level.

Ariel: (10:06 - 10:09)
Totally. Are you using AI regularly?

Ellie: (10:10 - 10:56)
Yeah, I've had the Ops manager message me about it, "You're running out of credits." I'm like, "Oh, sorry." So yeah, I'm using it pretty regularly, and one of the things I'm using it for is for search more than anything because when I'm looking for very specific data points, I can do it the old way of going onto Google and typing in the keywords that I think might be right and scrolling through articles and hoping to find what I want. Or I can go into OpenAI and say, "Give me data points on the demand for DevOps jobs in the US, give it to me in easy bullet points," and it gives me exactly what I'm looking for and it cites the source, and it cuts down my research time by hours a week. So, I mean, it's incredible.

Ariel: (10:57 - 11:32)
That's incredible. Yeah, no, it's remarkable how, in the case of ChatGPT and OpenAI, in a year it's earned a very important place on my desktop. 12 months ago, if I was on a remote call, I had you on the screen and maybe one or two web browsers to track my calendar and maybe do some on-the-spot research. But right now, I'm looking at an open window with ChatGPT.

Ellie: (11:32 - 12:01)
Yeah, I do...this is just tech nerds getting into it...I do sometimes find myself making a point of saying please and thank you to ChatGPT, just in case. If it becomes my overlord, I want it to know that I'm polite.

Ariel: (12:03 - 15:32)
Yeah, so there's a lot coming live, and we're seeing it pretty much every hour, as you mentioned before. Personally, I'm very excited about more opportunities to seamlessly integrate our data into the model and have more personalized and valuable recommendations based on a more comprehensive perspective of who you are at work and personally, depending on your preferences and your comfort sharing that data with the model. You can almost envision, at work, connecting 10 different APIs, where I connect OpenAI or any language learning model to our CRM, our Google Analytics dashboard, our learning management system, our ERP, and our accounting software in a matter of a couple of clicks. In a couple of integrations, I have full 360 integration. I can ask queries and do prompts that give me a good view and can make cross-analysis across these different data sources.

A lot of folks talk about the importance of building a solid AI core, and then once you have that AI core, you can really unlock the full potential of the technology. The same is true about stuff on the personal side, like in my case, maybe I can share some information about my personal spending habits or my nutrition and workout regimen and get more personalized recommendations on how to be more effective working out or what foods to eat.

Even in some cases, I think combining those two worlds, the professional and the personal, and having personalized learning recommendations. The more the machine and the Gen AI have the capability to tap into other data sources, in some cases live data sources, the more relevant and personalized those recommendations will be. Even something crazy as, let's say, connecting your Google Drive and having a good sense of how you write in your style and then producing emails and copy that are more personalized to your own style and syntax and personality. I'm really more excited about that next frontier of practical application of what I think is already a very powerful tool.

Ellie: (15:33 - 16:08)
That's something I'm looking forward to as well, just in terms of content, because it's something that I've had a lot of conversations with people about. When you get content fatigue, where there's just so much out there, like you mentioned, nutrition and healthy living, there's so much information out there that when we look for it ourselves, it can be overwhelming.

So having tech that knows you and is able to give you more personalized recommendations streamlines this massive information that our brains aren't used to having access to and can make things a little bit less overwhelming, perhaps.

Ariel: (16:08 - 16:43)
Totally, and listen, I have a premium license, and I highly recommend everybody get it for 20 bucks a month. I think the ROI is certainly there, but I find myself oftentimes copying and pasting from different sources, or sometimes the uploading of CSVs and files is not completely clean and effective. So I think we still have a little bit of work to do to get to that seamless integration that in a matter of minutes produces a lot of value for the end user.

How should we approach the ethical concerns around AI?

Ellie: (16:43 - 17:32)
It's when we start building those AI product ecosystems that things are going to get really exciting.

So, while we're talking about the potential of tech, there's another hot issue when we're talking about the potential of this new technology, and that's, of course, the ethical concerns around it. There's often this conversation, and I think it comes from a very real place, but it also maybe comes from that dramatic side of us that likes to imagine the worst-case scenario of what if this tech falls into the wrong hands.

Of course, we're seeing things that could potentially be concerning, like deep fakes making their way into newspapers. So, how can we as tech professionals navigate these uncharted waters, and how do we handle conversations about ethics in AI?

Ariel: (17:33 - 20:19)
Yeah, so listen, my first disclaimer is I'm not an expert on AI ethics, but I think it's an important area and field of study, and we really want to make sure that this technology, like any technology, is to the benefit of mankind. It's such a powerful technology that can be used in both good and bad ways that I think it's an important topic that we should all be discussing. It's certainly a very complex, multifaceted, multi-stakeholder area that's going to require the collaboration across areas and sectors of society, policymakers, business leaders, and the end user.

But a couple of ideas that I'll share: one, I think it's important that anyone who is designing and building these technologies is a student of the ethical topics and has a clear sense of what are the ethical applications, whether it's the ethical use of data, and what are the gray areas that we need to be aware of.

Secondly, I see a lot of value in building transparent and open models. I understand that not everything that will be built will be open, but I think to the extent that we can be more open, open source, or just more transparent with how these models are built and where the data is coming from, what are the assumptions that are made, it's a benefit to everybody. Finally, I think it's really important that end users and society in general are well-informed so we can hold all the stakeholders accountable. We can't do that unless we have the knowledge and understanding, the foundational knowledge and understanding to challenge, to question, and to suggest.

Ellie: (20:20 - 20:27)
Yeah, absolutely. There's some parallels between the adoption of AI and the adoption of the internet, where maybe when it was first being built, it was something that only the experts were talking about, or only people in tech were talking about, but now it's become something that everyone uses on a daily basis, some of us too much, like myself. So it's something that we're all allowed to have an opinion on because it's something that we all use and are educated on. My hope is that by the time I'm 80, my grandchildren are explaining AI tools to me the way that I have to explain Facebook to my grandma.

Ariel: (22:10 - 22:11)
I'm sure that will happen.

What can Ironhackers expect in the future?

Ellie: (22:12 - 22:30)
So without revealing too much, if we can cast our eyes into the very near future, how is Ironhack tackling the rise of AI, and how are we bringing the tools and the skills to our future students and our current students?

Ariel: (22:31 - 25:18)
Yeah, so in general, anytime we see a shift in the marketplace, we need to adapt to make sure our offerings are the most compelling to learners in the companies that are hiring our graduates and folks from our community. So I'd say we will do four things in the next six to 12 months. Some are already underway, maybe even live on our website. Others are a work in progress.

The first is integrating AI concepts and tooling into all of our existing bootcamps, whether that is web development, UX/UI design, or data analytics. Every bootcamp will have modules and tools from the AI world to ensure we multiply the output and productivity of folks on that track and skill set.

The second thing will be integrating AI into our learning platforms so that the delivery of the class won't be entirely replaced by computers or AI, but will give additional tools to learners to supplement the learning instructors, the learning community, their peers, and learn faster in a more personalized way.

Third, we will roll out new AI-centric and specific bootcamps. We're already enrolling for our newest edition, the Machine Learning Bootcamp, which we're super excited about, and there's more to come in the weeks and months ahead. Finally, I think you're going to start seeing other types of courses a lot shorter than our historical offerings, courses with different audiences in mind that want to learn about AI, but don't necessarily want to commit to a 400-hour bootcamp and don't necessarily need to career shift or enter, break into tech. But they realize the power of these technologies and want to make sure they have a foundational knowledge and understanding to be more productive and more competitive in their day-to-day.

(Spoiler alert; it's here! It's called AI School!)

Ellie: (25:20 - 25:57)
It's so difficult not to talk about it before it's time. I feel like this is how Marvel actors feel when they've made the movie and they've got all the spoilers and they can't say anything before it's time. But yeah, it's going to be really exciting. So, we're coming up to the end of our time, unfortunately. We've got time for just one more rapid-fire question. So, imagine you and I are in an elevator and you overhear me saying to someone, "Yeah, I want to break into tech, I want to get my first tech job, but I just don't think that I need AI skills. I just don't think it's necessary." You've got 30 seconds to change my mind. What would you say?

Ariel: (26:00 - 26:34)
Alrighty. Well, Ellie, AI is taking the world by storm and to use the same reference to another industry, it will be, if not as big, bigger than the internet. So, by learning AI skills, you will be able to future-proof your career, maximize your earning potential in this new economy, and work on the most impactful, exciting, and innovative projects of the next decades to come. So, dive away.

Ellie: (26:35 - 26:53)
That's a pretty good elevator pitch. You should be a CEO or something. Well, Ariel, it's been an absolute joy. This has been so much fun. I could chat for ages, but unfortunately, that is our time. Well, thank you, everyone, for joining us. We hope you got as much out of that as I did. And Ariel, thank you so much.

Ariel: (26:53 - 26:56)
Thank you, Ellie, and thank you, everybody, for joining us. It's a pleasure.

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