Wednesday 21 August 2019

'AI can make Ireland richer' (even if robots do take our jobs)

Robots could be set to take our jobs
Robots could be set to take our jobs
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Robots may be set to take our jobs, but artificial intelligence could make Ireland a richer place.

The consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers says that €48bn will be added to the Irish economy as a result of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) over the next 12 years.

The adoption of technologies that cut out humans altogether will contribute to this, with Irish GDP set to be 11.6pc higher by 2030.

Retail, accommodation and food services sectors will see the biggest impact, with health and education close behind.

Ireland is poised to benefit over other parts of Europe, according to PwC, but will still lag behind other regions of the world such as the US and China.

The company is predicting a shake-up in the jobs that humans might qualify for, but isn't painting a picture of doom for mankind.

"The adoption of 'no-human-in-the-loop' technologies will mean that some jobs will inevitably become redundant," says the consulting firm's report. "But others will be created by the shifts in productivity and consumer demand emanating from AI. Along with jobs in the development and application of AI, the technologies will need to be built, maintained, operated and regulated.

"In most cases, these jobs will be conducted by humans. Given Ireland's strong business and regulatory environment, we expect that AI will also lower the number of jobs being outsourced since its AI readiness will mean jobs being outsourced will be done more cheaply and efficiently in Ireland. Therefore, it is likely that the effect on jobs in Ireland in the long term will at least be neutral, if not net positive."

The PwC research suggests that labour-intensive sectors, such as retail, accommodation and food services are likely to see the biggest impact. Financial services and other professional services are also likely to see a "significant" impact, according to the report.

"The machine-learning analysis estimated that automation in these sectors in Ireland is likely to be higher than in other European economies, for example, because of the back-office nature of the financial services work that takes place in Ireland," it predicts.

Overall, the impact on Irish GDP "will likely be more heavily weighted towards the consumption-side impacts than other global regions", it says.

"This is largely because Ireland - like the UK and other European economies - does not have a large manufacturing side of the economy, relative to these regions."

Notably, it says, although the labour productivity channel is a 'production side' effect, the GDP gain is also caused due to the spillovers of these increases in efficiency in the production to other aspects of the economy.

"The potential size of the AI prize on Ireland's economy is huge," said Ronan Fitzpatrick, digital director of PwC Ireland.

"The impact on productivity could be disruptive. Businesses that fail to apply AI could quickly find themselves being undercut on price and turnaround times."

Technology and science leaders such as Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking have warned about the dangers of artificially intelligent machines overpowering humans in the future. However, automation continues apace, with Uber announcing the purchase of up to 24,000 driverless vehicles to operate as a driverless fleet by 2021.

Irish Independent

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