Editorial

UK scrapes into global automation preparedness Top 10 – just

Economist Intelligence Unit report into how ready advanced economies are for the coming wave of automation challenges may make sobering reading for some policy makers

Posted 1 May 2018 by

How well are Britain’s leaders preparing us for a future driven by AI and automation?

According to a new report from The Economist, the answer is pretty well if you’re a South Korean, German or Singaporean worker… not so good if you’re a Brit.

The magazine’s research arm, the Economist Intelligence unit, has just published an Automation Readiness Index that looked at 25 advanced economies to try and work out which ones are making the fastest progress in terms of prepping their workforces for the rise of there robots.

Countries got scored on three metrics – their innovation environment (money being spent on AI and automation R&D/investment), education policies and public workforce development (like plans for re-training).

The answer: as we said, South Korea, Germany and Singapore are doing well, followed by Japan and Canada – with the US at 10th, just after Australia.

Yes, the UK came in at 8th – but the placing should give no-one cause for complacency, as even the top three don’t get perfect marks off the researchers: as Russian President Vladimir Putin put it last year, “Artificial intelligence is the future, not only for Russia but for all humankind. It comes with colossal opportunities, but also threats are difficult to predict. Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.”

Commenting in the results for website TNW, a McKinsey analyst notes that,  “We could do a lot to build more career pathways, even just skill-credentialing to enable people to get a basic, entry-level job” while a professor of political economy at the University of Pretoria in South Africa adds, “The major difference with the past is that today’s automation technologies are highly intelligent and able to learn.”

The same article notes how different economies are reading to the AI challenge, like Singapore’s experiment with “individual learning accounts” to help local workers get more training as their careers progress.

The UK last week announced a further £300m boost for AI research as part of its Industrial Strategy.