UNR data analytics masters program gives AI a human touch

The iPhone didn’t have any issues with spelling ‘artificial intelligence’ but then it probably had help.

The iPhone didn’t have any issues with spelling ‘artificial intelligence’ but then it probably had help.

Anyone who texts or uses a word processor is aware of the sometimes infuriating suggestions the machine makes as part of the predictive text, a form of artificial intelligence.

People know that what the phone came up with was wrong, but sometimes press the button before they get it fixed.

While there are concerns about jobs lost to big data and artificial intelligence, a University of Nevada, Reno, professor says jobs in data analytics are projected to grow 23 percent by 2031.

The university is offering a master’s degree program to train people on how to track the results of artificial intelligence.

Ansari College of Business Department of Information Systems Dr. Amir Talaei-Khoei cited Tesla specifically when talking about artificial intelligence with The Record-Courier.

“Tesla claims a lot of AI tools,” he said. “The question is when assisted ‘can I trust this thing, and I’m basically betting my life.’ The only way to trust the information is to know how it is produced and that goes back to the skills of data analytics.”

He said that machine learning used by artificial intelligence is essentially a black box.

Someone tells the program what they want to do, and it figures out the rest.

“The key word is ‘trust,’” he said. The only way to trust the AI is to have skills in data analytics because that’s how the AI is producing results.”

Talaei-Khoei said the data analytics offered by UNR is a five-semester course starting this spring and that the program will be conducted entirely online.

“One of the interesting things is that it is online,” he said. “You don’t participate in any class. One Saturday at 3 p.m. you can go listen to lectures and the next week you can go online 2 a.m. Tuesday. It’s designed for a working professional with family and work commitments.”

A decade ago the hardware required to store that data was expensive but now with cheap storage, it’s easy to store huge amounts of information.

“The more you store, the harder it is to analyze,” he said. “It requires skills to analyze that data. The beauty is that you can use that data to forecast for future trends.”

Every time anyone goes on social media they are generating data and that data is available to analyze for a variety of purposes.

“Analysis and the power of that allows us to do data-based decision making,” he said. “Someone running a family business can use these tools to generate and maintain the data and analyze it.”

He said statistics across the country are showing there will be a substantial increase in the number of people required to analyze data produced from artificial intelligence.

“It’s here and it’s not going to go away,” he said. “There are people in the workforce that regardless of what sort of discipline will have to know analytics.”

The master’s program focuses less on the technology involved and more on how to use it in their own experience.

“Artificial is a package word for all those techniques of analyzing data for a particular context,” he said. “If you want your shop to become smarter, analyze the data and decide on that basis. The need is there, and the resources are available in Northern Nevada.”

There are currently around 40 students signed up for the master’s program, making it one of the larger programs at the university.

The program is estimated to cost $29,000, not including student fees.

Talaei-Khoei said there isn’t any coding. In addition to a bachelor’s degree, the program requires a statement of purpose, resume, transcripts and a grade point average of 2.75 during the last two years of undergraduate work.

“We want people to be aware of this program that is available to them,” he said.


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