The artificial intelligence revolution is underway and Britain must lead

It has been an incredible few years watching artificial intelligence (AI) emerge from the world of academia to become a mainstream business practice, and even being mentioned in Teen Vogue.

AI is arguably the biggest technology opportunity for the UK economy today, so its good to see the government taking this seriously by making it a core part of its modern industrial strategy. Last Thursday, the government agreed its AI sector deal with international tech firms, which will see £1bn of investment put into the industry.

The step-changes in the capacity to collect and process massive amounts of data, combined with unprecedented accessibility of scalable cloud computing power and a wave of global entrepreneurship, has unlocked the AI technology developed in the 1950s, leading to massive innovation.

Read more: AI needs ethical rules to gain acceptance

The applications are endless. AI already enables me to plan traffic-free journeys, play the perfect next music track, unlock my iPhone using my face, set a timer using my voice – and soon, hopefully, drive better. It is being used to reduce energy consumption, to improve teaching in schools, and to help detect disease.

The space between what a human and a machine are tasked with is changing at an unprecedented pace. These advances are predicted to unlock 40 per cent productivity, and to bring a potential £230bn to our economy by 2030.

The UK is in a great position to capitalise on this technology revolution. Benchmarked by McKinsey, the UK AI research base ranks third in the world at the moment, behind only the US and China. We also have the third highest number of artificial intelligence companies, and enjoy a diverse influx of skills as the number one destination for international tech talent coming to Europe.

This isnt just about tech companies. All successful organisations will need to take advantage of artificial intelligence, either by adopting machine learning techniques themselves, or working with companies that do. Alongside the offerings from Google, IBM and Microsoft, there are hundreds of UK startups in this field – a new company is launched every week in the UK that uses AI at the core of its technology.

At CognitionX, we are excited to work with the 51 leading businesses, organisations and academic institutions which have pledged their support for the new deal between government and industry. Its a complex, fragmented and ever-changing domain, and it can be hard to understand exactly how best to benefit. Thats why were on a mission to democratise access to information on AI.

With this central role comes a degree of responsibility.

AI has the potential to unlock a better future where humans live longer, healthier, happier lives, unshackled from the drudgery of bad labour. However, it is important to note that this technology could also widen the poverty gap, increase inequality, reduce diversity, and threaten livelihoods by diminishing the worlds need for human labour.

Everyone working in the industry is responsible for ensuring that we build the AI-driven economy of the future in a way that works for all. It is encouraging that the UK has become a convening point for this discussion. The announcement of the governments Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation adds to the important work done by others, including the British Academy, Royal Society, and the Nuffield Foundation, with its forthcoming Ada Lovelace Institute.

This technology isnt going anywhere, and Britain has a chance to be at the centre of the conversation. Lets take it.

  • The CogX Festival of All Things AI runs 11-12 June at Tobacco Docks.

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