The Impact of AI in UK Constituencies: Where will automation hit hardest?
Published on 17 October 2017
Written and researched by Matthew Fenech, Cath Elliston, and Olly Buston – Future Advocacy
Comments and feedback from John Hawksworth and Rob McCargow are gratefully acknowledged.
The UK was the crucible of the Industrial Revolution and is one of the crucibles of the Intelligence Revolution. It is home to world-beating artificial intelligence (AI) companies and world-class academic centres of AI research. It is well placed to reap great overall economic benefits from the development of AI, but it is not yet clear how those benefits will be shared. A number of high profile recent studies have predicted high levels of automation in the UK in the coming years as artificial intelligence and related technologies disrupt the economy. The Industrial Revolution drove automation of repetitive physical work; the Intelligence Revolution is having the same effect on a widening range of intellectual tasks, meaning that more and more jobs can potentially be performed by robots and computers. There is, however, great disagreement among economists about whether the large amount of work that is automated will be replaced by new (and possibly more fulfilling) alternative work. The history of the Industrial Revolution would suggest that more jobs will be created than are lost. Certainly, in the UK at least, unemployment is currently at record lows (although arguably this is due to an increase in insecure forms of employment). History does not always repeat itself, however: if machines become better than humans at intellectual tasks, what will be left for humans to do? It seems likely that tasks involving creativity, empathy, and high degrees of dexterity will be done by humans for longer. But are these skills that machines will also eventually master?