Q&A: How AI Is Expected to Have a $19 Trillion Economic Impact by 2035

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Artificial intelligence is expected to create more value for global businesses than the current worth of the entire United States economy over the next 15 years.

That figure—$19.2 trillion—comes from an economic model commissioned for a new book called The AI Age by Adam Riccoboni, managing director at UK-based tech consultancy Critical Future. The book gives an overview of the various ways in which machine learning and automation research is expected to transform society in coming years, ranging from job market flux to the fundamental operations of various industries.

The book also claims to be the first to feature cover art generated by AI. More specifically, it’s a cutting-edge type of machine learning system called a generative adversarial network (GAN) that’s trained on a database of 200,000 real book covers.

Riccoboni spoke to Adweek about why he remains optimistic about the future of AI overall, what workers should do to prepare for an AI economy and what its most exciting uses are.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Adweek: What is the significance of this $19 trillion figure you’ve calculated?

Adam Riccoboni: It’s a huge amount. That’s about the same size of the U.S. economy, basically. And that is now going to be distributed to businesses that invest in AI, and people that focus their careers in the right way. So there’s this great boon for some people, but the other side, there’s going to be a lot of disruption for other people. Millions of jobs are going to be disrupted, millions of other jobs will be created.

But people need to think about how to get on the right side of this big technological revolution. Imagine if before the internet happened, you could see the internet was going to come, you knew publishing was going to be ripped apart, that you might have to become a digital marketer instead of just a marketer or a programmer or a social media manager—all these different changes that the internet brought in. Something similar is going to happen over the next 10 to 15 years of artificial intelligence. And people need to be prepared.

There are a range of views among experts, from optimistic to dystopian, on whether economic disruption caused by AI will ultimately be a net plus for humanity. Where do you stand on that spectrum?

I’m an optimist. I definitely think there will be millions of jobs displaced. For example, originally, these two Oxford academics caused a bit of a fray, when they found 47% of jobs in the U.S. would be displaced. That’s come down to about 9% now in the [Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member countries,] but there’s still millions of jobs here. The thing is, millions of other jobs will be created. The important thing is that it changes the balance of jobs.

You have to think, “Where is a human’s comparative advantage over machines? What are we better at than machines?” Machines are better at doing calculations, doing repetitive things, all these type of machine jobs that will be taken over by machines. And then we will be freed up to do things like build relationships, more creative jobs, more general problem-solving skills. That’s our advantage over machines is we’ve got general problem solving skills; they can only ever do very narrow technical things.

Our advantage over machines is we’ve got general problem solving skills; they can only ever do very narrow technical things.
—Adam Riccoboni, author of The AI Age

You just have to be very adaptable. So because of that, you should have a well-rounded education, you should have an interdisciplinary education. You should read history, politics, philosophy, not just the technical things—all of those things to give you a well-rounded set of general problem-solving skills to make you adaptable, make you strategic, make you creative, and then you’re going to be doing very well in the transition.

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