AI and the Future of Cybersecurity Work

November 7, 2018
Sohrob Kazerounian
Distinguished AI Researcher
AI and the Future of Cybersecurity Work

In February 2014, journalist Martin Wolf penned an article for the London Financial Times, provocatively titled "Enslave the Robots and Free the Poor." He kicked off with a quote from 1955, where Walter Reuther, the head of the US car workers' union, highlighted the tension between labor and automation during a visit to a Ford plant. This tension, as Wolf elucidates, has been a consistent theme throughout history, echoing in academic literature from the likes of Karl Marx to Adam Smith.

The historical narrative includes movements like the Luddites, textile workers and weavers who opposed factory mechanization. Contrary to popular belief, their resistance wasn't against machines per se but the exploitation resulting from automation. This sets the stage for understanding the ongoing impact of technology on labor.

AI and Machine Learning in the Evolving Job Landscape

Our current technological surge, dubbed the Second Machine Age, Fourth Industrial Revolution, or as per Kurzweil, The Singularity is Near, introduces new tensions arising from AI and machine learning. These tensions span ethical dilemmas, illustrated by the self-driving car's trolley problem, to existential queries about the role of humans in a world dominated by super-intelligent AI.

Amidst these dilemmas, a pivotal question emerges: How should we structure the economy and society as automation replaces significant portions of human labor? In simpler terms, what happens when jobs are taken over by cost-effective, high-performing machines?

Recent years have witnessed a surge in studies and institutes dedicated to predicting the future job market. The 2013 Oxford Report on The Future of Employment attempted to categorize jobs based on their susceptibility to automation. While creative roles like artists seem less automatable, recent events, like the sale of an AI-generated painting for $500,000, challenge these assumptions.

In the realm of cognitive and manual-labor jobs, there's no clear-cut rule for what will be automated. The field of cybersecurity serves as an illustrative example. Despite advancements in AI, security analysts are unlikely to be replaced, given the nuanced and complex nature of their work.

The Complexity of Cybersecurity and the Role of AI

Cybersecurity, a domain under constant siege from advanced attackers, demands a human touch. AI, although advanced, operates akin to the human perceptual system. It can recognize patterns but lacks the comprehensive knowledge possessed by seasoned system administrators.

AI as a Tool in Cybersecurity

Contrary to fears of automation displacing jobs, AI in cybersecurity functions as a tool. It expands the scope of threat detection, making it possible to identify and respond to sophisticated attacks. Much like the calculator enhanced mathematical possibilities, AI augments the capabilities of cybersecurity professionals without replacing their irreplaceable understanding of the complex cybersecurity landscape. For the foreseeable future, AI remains an indispensable ally in the defender's arsenal, ensuring the adaptability needed to combat ever-evolving advanced threats.