AI: different tech, same impact says NZ AI Forum

New Zealand AI Forum executive director Ben Reid said New Zealanders should not expect AI to be any different to other technology-driven change in recent times

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The New Zealand AI Forum has put out a teaser for a report it plans to release on 2 May saying the report will find — not unsurprisingly — that artificial intelligence (AI) is likely to deliver economic growth and productivity improvements but impact some people’s jobs.

New Zealand AI Forum executive director Ben Reid said New Zealanders should not expect AI to be any different to other technology-driven change in recent times.

"According to data from Statistics New Zealand, thousands of jobs are churned each year due to constant changes in work tasks and roles. Every year businesses change the number and type of jobs they need in order to be successful.”

Reid claimed, but without citing any supporting evidence, that “When jobs are no longer needed by firms, workers lose their jobs and most find other work suited to their capabilities or retrain.”

News of the report follows the release last month of a white paper from Callaghan Innovation warning that AI would have an extreme impact on New Zealand’s agriculture, digital, energy and health sectors in the next decade.

According to the NZ AI Forum, more than 50 international papers on the potential impacts of AI were analysed to prepare the report and the analysis “found that AI-driven job displacement will have a relatively modest influence overall. The worst case scenario would only represent up to 10 percent of the total natural job churn over the next 40 years.”

Reid said, based on the forum’s analysis: “There is no obvious reason why existing labour market support policies would not be able to cope. "It will be more about changes to jobs as automation alters the tasks within a job and the skills needed, rather than the entire job being lost.”

On a more positive note he said New Zealand’s economic growth had been predicted to soar if the nation could embrace AI.

"The study found that AI is expected to generate billions of dollars of economic growth through labour efficiencies alone by 2035,” he said. “AI and automation will free people up to focus on more complex, higher-value tasks in their jobs.”

According to Reid the research also identified over 120 New Zealand organisations actively involved in AI projects with some of the most visible being world leading digital avatars from Soul Machines and FaceMe and the Cacophony Project, which is using AI to help make New Zealand predator free.

The Cacophony Project is developing a set of technologies to be deployed throughout New Zealand that it hopes will increase trapping efficiency of introduced predators by up to 80,000 times, long term.

Reid said that most of the businesses in New Zealand that are already considering AI believe it will be a game changer for their organisation and for the country.


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