Sunday, 01 Oct 2023

AI could be as transformative as Industrial Revolution

AI could be as transformative as Industrial Revolution


AI could be as transformative as Industrial Revolution

The new genre of AI could be as transformative as the Industrial Revolution, the government's outgoing chief scientific adviser has said, as he urged Britain to act immediately to prevent huge numbers of people becoming jobless.

Sir Patrick Vallance, who stood down from his advisory role last month, said government should "get ahead" of the profound social and economic changes that ChatGPT-style, generative AI could usher in.

However, in a wide-ranging final parliamentary hearing that also covered his reflections on the pandemic and the rise of China as a global scientific power, he suggested AI could also have considerable benefits that should not be overlooked.

"There will be a big impact on jobs and that impact could be as big as the Industrial Revolution was," Vallance told the Commons science, innovation and technology committee. "There will be jobs that can be done by AI, which can either mean a lot of people don't have a job, or a lot of people have jobs that only a human could do.

"In the Industrial Revolution the initial effect was a decrease in economic output as people realigned in terms of what the jobs were - and then a benefit," he added. "We need to get ahead of that."

Vallance called for a national review of which sectors would be most significantly affected so plans could be drawn up "to retrain and give people their time back to do [their jobs] differently".

The comments follow an announcement by IBM this week that it is suspending or reducing hiring in jobs such as human resources, with a suggestion that 30% of its back-office roles could be replaced by AI in five years.

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