AI – some welcome it, others fear it

The future is always hard to predict as there are nearly always unintended consequences to any development.

This is certainly the case with AI (Artificial Intelligence) as various news items have revealed this month.

While some businesses and organisations welcome it, others fear it but clearly as AI applications develop there are likely to be significant changes in the way we work and do business.

On the plus side, some research has suggested it has the potential to create more than 7 million new jobs in the UK, although a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers has argued that it will create only slightly more jobs than it replaces at 7.2 million compared with 7 million jobs lost.

While robotics, drones and driverless vehicles could replace humans, PwC argues that many additional jobs could be created if the result is increased productivity, new products and higher wages.

The sectors that could see the most job reductions are manufacturing and transportation, it says.

It identifies healthcare and social work as sectors likely to see the largest net increases with up to 1 million additional jobs, while professional, scientific and technical services, including law, accounting, architecture and advertising firms, could to get the second-biggest boost, gaining nearly half a million jobs.

A gloomier picture was recently forecast by the Bank of England’s Chief Economist, Andy Haldane, who has called AI development the “fourth industrial revolution”. He argues that automation has already displaced millions of low-skilled jobs and will displace many millions more.

Haldane said that the UK will need a skills revolution to avoid “large swathes” of people being made redundant as robots and AI take their place in the workforce and argued that there would need to be significant efforts to retrain people for the new working environment.

It is not all doom and gloom, however. Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has recently announced after two years of collaborative research with DeepMind Health that machine learning technology has been successfully trained on thousands of historic de-personalised eye scans to identify signs of eye disease and recommend how patients should be referred for care.

The result, it says, could be much earlier identification and treatment of sight-threatening diseases.

Do you have a story about how AI has benefited your business? Why not email and tell us about it.