Will robots steal our jobs, or how to stay in demand in the era of artificial intelligence?

The 21st century has already become an era of artificial intelligence (AI). Self-driving cars, speech and face recognition, spam filters and personal content recommendations, Siri and Amazon Alexa – all are examples of AI that make our lives more comfortable. However, there are also many reasons to be concerned.

Self-driving minibus in Tallinn. Image credit: Arno Mikkor / Wikimedia Commons

Meet your new colleague: a robot

To start with, it must be emphasized that the AI revolution happening nowadays is definitely different from the Industrial Revolution. Although previous inventions helped us to be better and to solve tasks quicker, just as AI today, all those industrial machines were dependent on people, while AI can work and develop itself independently. This suggests that current workers can be successfully substituted with AI. Will it actually happen?

In 2013, Oxford academics estimated that 47% of current jobs are at high risk by mid-2030. But do not rush to panic!

Firstly, while all drudgery and repetitive tasks are done by AI, professionals will have more time for really creative and challenging assignments.

In 2018, American researchers found that machine learning could solve some tasks better than humans; however, it couldn’t perform all tasks needed for the job as well as its human counterpart. For this reason, it’s more likely that during the next few decades professionals won’t become unemployed but will collaborate with co-robots, who will help them to deal with different tasks much more quickly than before. For instance, BMW researchers found that robot-human teams were about 85% more productive than either alone.

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Study trip: The conflict in Northern Ireland is tribal

In the last week of May 2019, ten master’s students from the Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies visited Queen’s University Belfast, accompanied by Professor Eiki Berg and PhD fellow Eoin McNamara. We had the opportunity to learn firsthand how the conflict in Northern Ireland was settled (or has it been?) and how the looming Brexit threatens to rip open old scars.  

Nothing about the conflict in Northern Ireland makes sense to an outsider. “You mean to tell me that in the 21st century there is a religious conflict in Europe?” said a friend who could not restrain her bewilderment. Indeed, the two sides are named as Protestants and Catholics. It is not a disagreement about God or religious commandments, however, that seeds suspicion between them. Rather, it is a question over identity: who we are and how we can live.

Throughout history, this antagonism has been coloured in religious or ethnic shades, but in the end it is tribal in nature. Tribalism is another concept that seems so backward in our modern world, but it has been the latest fad in describing Western societies.

An outsider cannot tell which group is which on the street. Unless the street is covered in flags or murals, the buildings give no hints either. There is no obvious distinction between Protestant, Catholic, or mixed districts in Belfast or other cities in Northern Ireland.

Image credit: Merili Arjakas
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My summer challenges and beyond

Hello! My name is Laima Anna Dalbiņa. I am a bachelor’s student in computer science at the University of Tartu. 

Students always talk about how they spent their summers. I’m going to do the same, but I promise that mine really was a special one this year. From all of the exciting chores and experiences, some of my summer activities included taking a barge trip with space scientists and taking over the social media of an entire institute. 

I spent my summer as an intern at Tartu Observatory. My tasks were mainly related to project management, event organisation, communication, and dissemination of information through social media. During the initial weeks, my task was to manage Tartu Observatory’s Instagram account.

I introduced the internship activities of students at the observatory. For example, there was a two-day foosball tournament which was organized by interns themselves. 

Also during this summer, many interns were able to join the ESTCube-2 team developing the second Estonian student satellite. As the launch is planned next year, the students are actively working on various subsystems: the on-board computer, tele-communication, electrical power, star tracker, cameras and solar panels. This grows the students’ interest in a space-related project and motivates them to become space engineers.

As a part of the ESTCube team, I got to take part in different activities. The staff of Tartu Observatory and summer interns could travel on the annual barge trip as well as have regular sauna evenings. Outside of volunteering hours, I could contribute to the ESTCube project, as programming is my specialization. I helped with the development of the graphical user interface and serial communication software for the Helmholtz coil driver. 

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New southern species to reach Estonia: the European mantis

The European mantis (Mantis religiosa). Image credit: ERR Novaator

Two six-year-old kids – Heisi and Madis – found the very first European mantis in Estonia in the yard of their kindergarden. “Madis is a big fan of nature books and films; he was the first one to identify the species,” said Madis’ teacher, Juta Müllerstein.

By now the University of Tartu Natural History Museum zoologists have confirmed that it is really the European mantis (Mantis religiosa) – a totally new species for Estonia.

The species’ Latin name comes from the distinctive posture of the first pair of legs that can be observed in animals in repose, which resembles praying.

While mantises are often associated with the tropics, the European mantis is not that exotic. It is a widely distributed insect, common to central and southern Europe. It was also introduced to Americas and Australia. Its discovery in Estonia was absolutely expected.

“While the European mantis has been around in Latvia and Lithuania for some time already, it was rather a question of time when we would find it in Estonia,” commented the University of Tartu Natural History Museum zoologist Villu Soon.

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“It’s one of these Baltic states, right?”

Where do you want to go?!
It’s one of these Baltic states, right?”

Here we go. These were the questions that most of my friends asked me when I told them about my upcoming Erasmus exchange in Estonia. What people usually tried afterwards was to match the capitals of Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia with the respective countries. Most of them failed (No, Riga is not the capital of Estonia).

Now, more than half a year later, I can say that spending one semester of my master’s in Estonia has been a fabulous, enriching experience.

In order to find out why, let’s start with you. What is it that you like most about being a student? Is it the Wednesday parties? Countless afternoons in the library? Discounts for everything? The dorm life? The feeling after finishing an exam? Or rather some inspiring lectures that stick to your mind longer than you would have ever thought? Regardless of what it is, you will most likely find it in Tartu, just as I did.

The author with the Chief of State Protocol, Mr. Lauri Bambus
Me with the Chief of State Protocol, Mr. Lauri Bambus – one of the inspiring personalities I met during the diplomacy class, led by the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms. Marina Kaljurand. Photo from a personal archive

But how to choose your Erasmus destination?

For sure, that’s not an easy question, and there are certainly different factors for everyone to consider. Some are seeking the warmest temperatures in winter semesters, while others the cheapest beers. Some are looking for the most reputable universities and others for easy grades. However, I was looking for all of that and a truly exceptional experience, something special.

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It’s contest time: Share your Tartu moments

UPDATE, 1 October 2019: the contest is over. Many thanks to all the participants and congratulations to the winners!


Do you enjoy writing, taking photos, or making videos? Maybe you love all the above? Take part in our contest! Even if your English isn’t perfect – don’t worry. Be creative! Feeling interested? Not yet? We have some cool prizes for you!

  1. Capture your Tartu moments – in writing, photos, video, or a mix of them.
  2. Upload your entry to a social media account of your choice as a public post, so we can see it.
  3. Share the link to your post with us: http://utstudentblog.tumblr.com/submit.
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How to be the greenest fellow in Tartu?

Being green in everyday life is no longer only a specialty for environmental enthusiasts, but also fashionable for you to try out. If you agree, you will find Tartu to be the best place to kick off this series of green-you-up campaigns!

Challenge 1: Build yourself a bike!

To mitigate the climate crisis, the second highest personal action is to live a car-free life (Wonder what the top one is? Have one less child, according to a study conducted by Lund University). Where to build this magical bike? TERT! It is the coolest community-based bike shop where you can build your own bike with the assistance of the amazing mechanics. They also welcome hands just to repair bikes! By the way, they rent bikes, too! You can buy one and return it when you no longer use it. There is another option online where they also sell second-hand bicycles. 

If it’s broken, fix it!

Challenge 2: Participate in one Fridays for Future Eesti climate strike!

It’s no mistake: Students in Tartu hold strikes for the climate! Tartu is one of the few cities in the Baltic States that first stood up for climate justice. You’re invited to bring your buddies and raise your voices for the climate! Come to Town Hall Square and get inspired. 

Tartu climate strike on 15 March 2019
The Tartu climate strike on 15 March 2019 gathered a lot of youth. Image credit: Asia Bartonowicz
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