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AI bigger than the internet, maybe

Sarah Putt, Contributor. 07 February 2019, 7:29 am

Will AI be bigger than the internet? Will it be bigger than blockchain, which may also turn out to be bigger than the internet? And when did "bigger than the internet" become a thing anyway? 

That first question was put to around 1300 CEO in 91 territories by PwC as part of its 22nd Annual Global CEO Survey. PwC says AI could contribute up to $15.7 trillion to the global economy by 2030, but while the potential is great, the implementation is challenging.

"Eighty-five percent of CEOs agree that AI will significantly change the way they do business in the next five years. That's a striking number. In fact, close to two-thirds of global CEOs see it as bigger than the internet," the report notes.

Key to AI is data, and herein lies the problem facing CEOs the world-over, with the report highlighting an 'information gap' between the data CEOs need and the data that they get. As you might expect, data analysts are in hot demand as lack of skills in this area is the reason why many CEOs say their companies are not able to "innovate effectively". As Sim Tshabalala, CEO of Standard Bank, put it: "In God we trust; everybody else, bring data."

While data analysts are living it up, those of us in more traditional roles can officially start to worry. In another report PwC analysed OECD data covering 200,000 jobs in 29 countries and concluded there will be three waves of AI displacing jobs - Algorithmic (until early 2020s), augmentation (to late 2020s) and autonomy (to mid-2030s).

By the mid-2030s up to 30% of jobs could be automated - a finding that chimes with a similar report produced locally by Infometrics last year. And it is happening in areas that you might not think would be disrupted by AI, such as journalism.

The New York Times reports this week that many news organisations are using robots to write articles. Bloomberg News uses a system called Cyborg to churn out a third of its content. The Associated Press has upped its story count on earnings reports after striking a deal with Automated Insights. The Washington Post has an in-house robot reporter called Heliograf, Forbes is experimenting with an AI tool called Bertie, and the Wall Street Journal is looking at ways of using AI to help reporters with basic tasks.

New Zealand newsrooms, in keeping with international trends, have long been emptying out, although it may be a while before journos have to fear being replaced by a robot. In the AI Forum's infographic of New Zealand organisations that are investing in the technology I didn't spot any media organisations.

If you're curious about what an article written by a robot looks like then the Guardian in Australia published its first machine-assisted article, on political party donations, last week. Fair to say its long on facts, short on narrative style.


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