One of Scotland’s most renowned cybersecurity experts has warned that people should become experts in their fields – or risk being replaced by machines.

Professor Bill Buchanan said that AI is the most disruptive technology ever faced by humanity – and people should equip themselves with ‘deep and true knowledge’ to mitigate its impact.

Professor Buchanan, a self-styled ‘cyber punk’ and professor of cryptography at Edinburgh Napier university, said: “Our world will never be the same again. AI is perhaps the most disruptive technology that humankind has ever created, and the next few years will be a completely transformative time for us, as many jobs will disappear.

“My tip is to become an expert in your field, as AI will struggle to compete with true intelligence. Deep and true knowledge and expertise will trump any AI, but surface knowledge will eventually fall to the might of the Memex.”

Professor Buchanan was speaking at the recent Cyber Security conference at Strathclyde University’s Technology & Innovation Centre in Glasgow, organised by Futurescot.

He warned that AI systems are “transforming so many areas of our lives — possibly for the better, and likely for the worse” in a wide-ranging talk that look at its impact on society.

He warned how new tools including text-to-video platform Sora, and text-to-image generator DALLE-2, both developed by OpenAI, will make it harder to distinguish fact from fiction.

And he said how AI will impinge on the ability of cybersecurity professionals to protect people and systems from online harms.

In cybersecurity, he said generative AI will lead to more convincing social engineering attempts, phishing emails, malware code generation and automated hacking.

On the flip side, he said it was important to “present both sides of an argument” and gave positive use cases for AI in his field of expertise.

That included automated cyber defences, better cyber reporting, threat intelligence, secure code generation and detection and incident response and digital forensics.

He also gave an entertaining illustration of himself speaking at a conference, using DALLE-2, and the recent and much derided Willy Wonka ‘experience’ in Glasgow.

In a blog post following the event, he said: “It was all a bit of fun. But, AI is serious and has serious implications for our society. It could replace many of our existing jobs, and turn us into slaves to the machine. In the worst case, AI could terminate us from the planet.”