A familiar pattern in the AI news

  • BLOG POST
  • 27/07/2018
In typically polarised fashion, last week’s chapter of tech news was a tale of two halves.

A familiar pattern in the AI news

In typically polarised fashion, last week’s chapter of tech news was a tale of two halves.

On the one hand, Elon Musk et al were busy thwarting an imaginary apocalypse by signing a pledge to deter military firms and nations from building lethal autonomous weapon systems. On the other, a new PwC report surfaced with estimates of 7m new jobs to be created in the UK by 2037, transforming almost every customer-serving industry as we know it.

It was a classic case of long-term speculation stealing the media limelight from short-to-medium term realism. The short-to-medium is so often consigned to the shadows, despite being the one with immediate consequence on all of our lives. Yes, it’s commendable in its own way that 2,400 signatories have pledged to block the creation of lethal autonomous weapons, but it also might be jumping the gun slightly. Whilst a (very) preemptive ban on an indistinct, far-off prospect is vaguely reassuring, wouldn’t we all rather hear about the positive things that AI definitely can do in the near future? Or maybe even now?

Which is why the latest report from research powerhouse PwC is such a welcome relief, adding yet more heft to the positive conversation around how AI can help save our crumbling NHS, improve societal structures and productivity, and create jobs. Professional, scientific and technical services, including law, accounting, architecture and advertising firms, all stand to gain half a million jobs in the UK by 2037. Education is predicted a boost of 200,000. Healthcare is forecast the largest upturn, with almost a million new jobs.

Sensationalism is only good for inflaming rather than informing public opinion, in the words of AI researcher Subbarao Kambhampati. But each reader has the ability to tune their own frequency to the kind of AI news that offers real meaning to their present-day lives.

Balance in the media is important for public debate, and AI is approached with equal parts optimism and fatalism – two sentiments which continue to jostle for attention. It’s up to mindful readers to not let the noise of the latter drown out the reason of the former.