Penn State Professor Discusses Impact of Artificial Intelligence


Artificial intelligence (AI) in its simplest terms is the ability of a computer or robot controlled by a computer to do tasks that are usually done by humans because they require human intelligence and discernment. For many businesses, AI is a way to reduce operational costs, increase efficiency, grow revenue and improve the customer experience. Here, Tim Kurzweg, Ph.D., director of the School of Engineering and a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Penn State Behrend, discusses AI and what organizations should consider when it comes to this powerful technology.

Today, more organizations are looking to utilize AI in their operations. What is the potential impact of AI on the business world?

Businesses are making the investment in AI because the impact can be huge. Making data-driven decisions using AI or machine learning can reduce cost, increase productivity and optimize operations. Time saving is key, as well as focusing your best person-power at the tasks that need human interaction, thoughts and decisions.

What are some examples of AI applications in manufacturing and other industries?

Manufacturing is on the cusp of some major AI breakthroughs in the areas of quality control and production use, while reducing design time and material waste. There are so many places to gather data in a manufacturing line, from the materials, the process to finishing inspection. If anything, the challenge is how to extract useful information out of the volumes of data that are available throughout the manufacturing process. This is where the strength of AI and machine learning come into play as machines can detect trends potentially missed by human observation.

For example, machine learning can rapidly analyze data as it comes in, identifying patterns and anomalies. If a machine in the manufacturing facility is working at a reduced capacity, a machine-learning algorithm can catch it and notify decision-makers that it’s time to dispatch a preventive maintenance team.

What are some common myths about AI?

Well, the first is that robots are going to take over the world. We have been fighting this myth since “The Terminator” came out in 1984. More seriously, there are concerns that people will lose jobs with the advancement of AI, or even more generally, and adoption of Industry 4.0. My feeling is that we will move jobs to robotics for safety, and that new jobs will be created from these technology advancements.

How rapidly is AI technology changing?

Quickly, yet also slowly. How about that answer? I think that the technology development and innovation is moving very quickly. Research and development is happening in industry and academia. People are realizing new application areas for AI all the time. However, the adoption of technology is often slower, and that is understandable. There is a cost, both financial and personnel time, to integrate new technology into systems. Companies need to be convinced that the investment in AI will pay off in the not too distant future.

How important are data and cybersecurity to the organizations that use AI?

Anything that is based on data, processing and communication needs to have security in place. According to recent data, manufacturing is behind in its cybersecurity systems. However, the good news is that they realize they are behind and moving quickly to catch up.

To learn more about artificial intelligence, join us for the MBA’s virtual AI IMPACT briefing from 11 a.m. to noon on May 20 by registering at The event is free to MBA members and nonmembers.