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Keep Calm and … Massively Increase Investment in Artificial Intelligence

October 16, 2017

The U.K. government has just released a thoughtful report on the potential of AI, along with some jolly sensible recommendations for making the most of the profoundly important technology.

The report, coauthored by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, concludes that “AI offers massive gains in efficiency and performance to most or all industry sectors, from drug discovery to logistics.”

The technology “can be integrated into existing processes, improving them, scaling them, and reducing their costs, by making or suggesting more accurate decisions through better use of information,” it adds. And this could add a whopping $814 billion to the U.K. economy by 2035.

To benefit from the AI boom, it says, the U.K. should develop “data trusts” so that data can be shared more easily and securely, and it should make research data more accessible to machines. The report also suggests that the U.K. invest heavily in AI education by creating new university and vocational courses, and by creating an AI fellowship program to encourage people from other countries to study in Britain. Here’s an executive summary (pdf) of the document, and here’s the full report (pdf).

It makes a lot of sense to think about the potential economic effects of AI. Governments badly need to be considering the impact of AI and automation on jobs, including the safety risks, and thinking hard about how to realize the technology’s potential to boost economic productivity.

The recommendations of the U.K. report bring to mind the massive commitment China is making in AI (for an in-depth discussion of this, check out our feature “China’s AI Awakening”). Other countries—including the U.S.—would be wise to ramp up their own investments if they don’t want to get left behind by the boom.

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