CBI calls for special commission to look at the impact of AI on UK businesses

The Confederation of British Industry is calling on the Government to establish a joint commission tasked with examining the impact of Artificial Intelligence on people and jobs across all sectors of the UK economy.

Based on research it conducted into the way that technology is changing the way we live and work, the CBI said on Friday that it had identified three technologies — AI, Blockchain and the Internet of Things – that are set to move from the fringes to the mainstream within the next five years.

It also found, however, that only a third of businesses currently have the skills and capabilities needed to adopt AI technologies, and that more therefore needs to be done to help prepare those companies for the future.

The aim of the commission, the CBI said, would be to examine the impact of AI on people and jobs, and to subsequently set out plans for action that will “raise productivity, spread prosperity and open up new paths to economic growth”.

“The UK must lead the way in adopting these technologies but we must also prepare for their impacts,” said Josh Hardie, deputy director-general of the CBI.

“That’s why we urge the Government to set up a joint commission on Artificial Intelligence in 2018, involving both business and employee representatives, to better understand the impact on people’s lives, jobs and our future economic growth.”

Mr Hardie said that while new technologies create great opportunities, regulatory hurdles, security concerns and the challenge of finding people with the right skills, mean that many firms are “slow to adopt”.

Minister of State for Digital, Matt Hancock, welcomed the CBI’s call.

“We want the UK to lead the way in emerging technologies,” he said. “Our ambitions are aligned on the need to embrace the opportunities of the digital revolution.”

The emergence of new technologies and the increasingly dominant role of robots in some industries has been a topic of persistent debate in recent months.

Speaking to an audience at University College London  earlier this week, the former Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, predicted that the rise of big tech companies and AI would cause the current economic system to undermine itself. 

“[Technology] is going to destroy a lot more jobs than it creates,” he said.

The chief executive of Tesla, Elon Musk, has also vocally and repeatedly warned about the increasing dominance of technology.

In July he described AI as “a fundamental existential risk for human civilisation”.

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