Machine learning and AI systems are becoming more and more popular all the time. The constant onslaught of media articles and hype is pressuring more and more companies to experiment with AI systems. Whether these techniques work or not, no manager wants to be the one that has ignored the trend. A failed machine learning venture might be preferable to the lack of any project in the eyes of many in upper management.
Our vendors press as well, after all, sales are on the line. I wasn't sure how useful the R language would be inside SQL Server, but I am amazed at the effort and popularity of R among SQL Server professionals. R, and possibly Python soon, are becoming integrated into every product and tool from Microsoft, as well as other vendors. Every month I see more and more people experimenting and learning how to use R for a wider variety of tasks, from analyzing disk space and database performance to extrapolating business measures.
Most of us aren't skilled enough in math and statistics to really develop and build intelligent systems. We don't have the background, or we haven't worked in those areas for a long time. However, many of us can learn to work with ML and AI systems, managing the models, integrating the code others write into our applications. I do think there is value in learning a bit about these technologies, though I don't think you need to become an expert. Some of you might want to be experts, and I wish you the best of luck on your journey.
I do believe that AI will change the world. It's going to become a larger and larger part of many systems and processes throughout the world. These intelligent systems will press and push humans in ways that we don't expect and that we might not like. For us data professionals, we will be at the heart of many of these changes, with opportunities to grow our careers we might never had considered.