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What is AI?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is widely predicted to have a considerable impact in the coming years and decades on individuals, businesses and the economy. Whilst there is no universal definition of AI, it can be considered as an evolving set of technologies that enable computers to simulate elements of human behaviour such as learning, reasoning and classification, by analysing data to model some aspect of the world and predict and anticipate possible future events.

Uses of AI

AI is already in use today for applications as broad as product recommendation in e-commerce, virtual assistants such as Alexa, identifying documents relevant to a particular legal case, automated writing of newspaper articles or automated trading software. In the future its applications may be even broader, from autonomous vehicles and virtual teaching assistants to utilising data for decision making in Government or healthcare.

Government Policy, Skills and Research

Increasing digital skills and providing funding for research into AI are key issues for the future growth of the industry and for future employment needs. Numerous reports have highlighted skills developments, most recently a review for the Government on growing the AI industry.

The Autumn 2017 Budget and November 2017 Industrial Strategy announced funding for AI and a ‘sector deal’ for the industry.

How might AI and Automation impact the economy and the workforce?

This briefing covers the impact of AI and automation on the workforce. Debate on AI often leads to discussion of its impact on the economy and individuals – particularly how working lives may change. AI is thought to be an area that will lead to economic and productivity growth as well as the creation of new and different jobs (for example in the Industrial Strategy).

There are a broad range of predictions for how AI and automation may affect the workforce in the coming years and decades, and predictions are difficult to make due to uncertainties in a number of factors such as the rate of technological development and rate of deployment and the variations by country, region and sector. The impact is likely to be significant, however, with the Bank of England reportedly predicting that up to 15 million jobs in the UK could be at risk of automation over the coming 10-20 years (but note this is not a net change – jobs created due to automation are not taken into account, and technological developments often change the type of jobs rather than the total number available). Effects are likely to be felt across a range of sectors and levels of education.

Other Challenges

There are a range of concerns and issues with AI above and beyond those regarding employment, including around the management of data, the verification of different forms of AI and establishing accountability for decisions based on AI.

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