The following is a guest post by Aaron Rose
“There is more uncertainty around advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and one of its major sub-sets, machine learning, than the current debate suggests, particularly with regard to the technology’s impact on society and the economy,” explains The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) in a report entitled Risks and rewards: Scenarios around the economic impact of machine learning. “No doubt the advances have indeed been incredible and advocates are right to highlight them. A decade ago few believed that a car could drive on its own, even in a controlled environment, or that an algorithm could learn how to label and organize photographs. Yet both of those are now possible and various forms of AI are performing new tasks it seems on a weekly basis.”
Commissioned by Google, The EIU report is based on the results of econometric modeling of three scenarios covering five countries—the US, UK, Japan, South Korea and Australia—and Developing Asia as a region. In addition, the report presents qualitative scenarios for four industries: manufacturing, healthcare, energy, and transportation.
Impact on GDP and productivity
“Scenario #1 assumes a higher degree of complementarity between human skills and AI than does the baseline and that governments will invest more in upskilling than current trends suggest. In the results, every country or grouping covered benefits, but some more than others. Australia, where growth in services is becoming more important for incremental economic growth than commodity exports, would see the greatest gains. The gains elsewhere would be more modest by comparison; although in this scenario, the UK’s productivity rises to slightly positive from our baseline forecast, which is for a slight decline.”
“Scenario #2 assumes investment in access to open source data, tax credits to spur private sector adoption of machine learning, and advances in computing efficiency drive hardware costs down. This scenario yields the most encouraging results insofar as economic growth is concerned. Each of the five countries, as well as Developing Asia as a group, experience higher levels of growth relative to our baseline forecast. Australia, again, along with Developing Asia, reap the greatest rewards from promoting investment in this scenario, but all of the countries covered see GDP rise by at least 1% above the baseline between now and 2030.”
Scenario #3: Insufficient policy support for structural changes in the economy“Scenario #3, which is the one negative scenario among the three, assumes the substitution effect for labor dominates due to inaction in workforce development—or more simply, skills— and a lack of national data sharing schemes. The losses are substantial compared to the baseline. The UK and Australian economies actually shrink in US dollar terms versus today, as a result, with the UK’s economy becoming US$420bn smaller in absolute terms and the Australian economy US$50bn. The US, Japan and Developing Asia still grow in this scenario, but their economies are all significantly below the baseline, with the US and Developing Asia both off by around US$3trn.”