What AI Could Mean for the Economy


It seems that Artificial Intelligence is barely out of the news these days, from Stephen Hawking’s warning that AI could end humanity, to constant chat about the use of robots to fill every day jobs, in place of humans. What once started as a key pay of smartphones and video games, looks set to play a key role in the revolutionisation of the economy, and it seems to be set to continue, at a fast and insatiable pace, with world leaders, scientific experts, and captains of industry keen to explore the potentials of this technology to change and improve economic output.

Artificial Intelligence is a machine that is capable of intelligent and autonomous thought, on the same level as the human mind. The further development of intelligent AI would make it possible for computers to perform any task, without human supervision. This has been immensely controversial due to the threat this development poses to the livelihoods of people working in industries most at risk to automation.

30% of UK jobs could be at risk to AI in the next 13 years, with 10 million workers potentially displaced by 2030. 56% of jobs are at risk in transport and storage, the most endangered industry, by 2030, whilst manufacturing and retail are also highly at risk, with 46% and 44% of workers being at risk respectively.

More intellectual and administrative roles, such as those in administrative organisations, hospitality, the finance sector, construction, real estate, government and defence, health, agriculture, education, and the arts are also at risk. Though in these industries, less jobs are threatened, due to complex nature of the tasks required. It may take a long time to develop AI sophisticated enough to fulfill these roles.

In the short term, however, the spread of AI and other mechanised industry, will lead to the creation of new jobs in programming, maintenance, engineering, and other technical jobs. Though this won’t help those displaced by robots, as they are extremely difficult tasks, and the jobs being fulfilled by machines tend to be less skilled. Further, these jobs may become obsolete too with the further development of AI, to the point that they are able to programme other machines, and, far later, themselves.

Early signs is that companies that are investing in AI technology are creating new jobs, with the sort of worker they require simply changing, due to the transforming nature of their workplaces. That suggests that, rather than destroying work as we know it, AI might just change the nature of the jobs people are doing, promoting and requiring new and different skills to traditional labour.

The Luddites of the 19th century deeply feared the industrial revolution, and the advent of new technology. This movement of militant workers feared that the new methods would lead to the redundancy of millions of workers in menial work. Ultimately, industry and workers adapted to new techniques, and different types of jobs were created, performing the jobs which machines could not. Our economy to do sprang from that, and has been enhanced, not weakened, by that age of innovation.

The decisive factor in the extent of the possible damage done by AI will be the how much skill and intelligence these new metal workers can have, and how many different jobs they can perform. The policies put in place by business and Government to adapt to the seismic shift the advent of fully autonomous AI would bring will also be crucial, and the state has a role to play in ensuring we are all ready.

Honestly, we have only begun to scratch the surface when it comes to exploring the full capabilities of AI technology. As we begin to fully explore these new methods, we may find new uses we were unaware of, of limitations that we cannot overcome. For the time being, whilst development and experimentation continues, jobs are safe, and the economy remains much the same. However, when we make the break through, the world could be in for some monumental change. Whether it is for the better, or the worse, is still up for negotiation.



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