Artificial intelligence: opportunity or threat?

Artificial intelligence (AI), also known as machine learning, is no longer the stuff of science fiction. AI has swiftly moved into mainstream awareness as technological advances and real world applications emerge at a faster pace than ever before.

A report by Bank of America Merrill Lynch forecasts that up to 35% of all workers in the UK and 47% in the US will be replaced by machines by 2025. This raises major concerns for the workforce and the skills that will be in demand over the next decade, and means businesses and non-commercial organisations must understand how their sectors will be shaped by this rapid change and, therefore, how they should respond.

No two sectors will be affected in exactly the same ways or to the same degrees. Jobs which require or benefit from deep interpersonal skills, such as counselling or investor relations, as well as creative fields, from the arts to sciences, are expected to be resilient to change, at least for now. Instead, it is tasks that are considered to be routine and repetitive, and therefore can be learned by a machine, that are most exposed. 

PwC has said that in the UK 2.25 million jobs are at high risk in wholesale and retailing, 1.2 million jobs are under threat in manufacturing, 1.1 million in administrative and support services and 950,000 in transport and storage. 

In the transport space, self-driving cars are already being trialled in cities around the world, including London, with automakers such as Nissan hoping that such vehicles will be commercially available by 2020. The rate at which the cars are adopted by consumers remains to be seen, but the commercial implications of obsolescing human drivers are obvious. For one, ride-hailing firm Uber has agreed to acquire up to 24,000 driverless cars from Volvo, while…