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AI tech shift is ‘most profound’ seen in our lifetimes, says Google UK boss

The tech giant’s latest economic impact report estimates artificial intelligence could boost UK growth by around 2.6% a year by 2030.

The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) marks the “most profound” technology shift in our lifetimes and has the potential to boost Britain’s economy by £400 billion by the end of the decade, according to a report by tech giant Google.

In the firm’s first report on its economic impact in the UK for three years, Google said AI technology – such as the firm’s chatbot Bard and rival Microsoft’s ChatGPT – has the power to “turbocharge” UK productivity, which has been in decline for many years, by helping people back to work and unlocking new ways of working.

It estimates that the economic boost from AI would be equivalent to annual growth of 2.6%, creating £200 billion in extra revenues for public services and “turning around the recent growth stagnation”, although the estimation does not take account of the impact on some jobs and businesses.

The group insisted that while jobs will be lost through AI across a raft of sectors, the economic benefits and improvements to people’s everyday lives will outweigh the hit.

Google also backed the need for regulation in the report, but stressed it should be a “nuanced approach” that does not stifle innovation in the sector.

Google’s UK and Ireland managing director Debbie Weinstein told the PA news agency: “This shift that we’re going through is the most profound platform shift that any of us have lived through.

“We are very conscious of the impact that this technology will have on people.

“Clearly there will be some jobs that will be lost, but also a whole new set of jobs that will be created.”

Debbie Weinstein is vice-president and managing director of Google in the UK and Ireland (Google/PA)

She said Google is focusing on “upskilling” workers to ensure they can benefit from AI.

“We want to make sure everyone has the skills they need. We’re aware that this is a fundamental technology shift that will impact all of our lives,” she added.

It comes amid growing fears over the impact of AI on jobs, industry, copyright, the education sector and privacy – among many other areas.

AI “godfather” Geoffrey Hinton recently resigned from his job at Google, warning that “bad actors” will use the new technology to harm others and that the tools he helped to create could spell the end of humanity.

“We’re aware of the fundamental change and the importance of getting it right while managing the downside risks,” Ms Weinstein told PA.

Google has suggested the launch of a national skills agenda to ensure workers and businesses are not left behind as AI technology develops, with a coalition formed between governments, technology firms, businesses and educational institutions.

It is also putting forward the idea of a UK Research Cloud that would “democratise access to accessible AI technology”.

Its report – produced with public policy research agency Public First – estimates that generative AI could save the average UK worker more than 100 hours a year in what it claims would be the single biggest improvement to worker productivity since the arrival of Google Search.

AI could also save more than 700,000 hours a year in administrative work for UK GPs and teachers, which the group believes could offset some of the cost pressures facing the NHS and the education sector.

But the firm agrees that regulation is vital as AI technology develops and it is “actively collaborating” with regulators around the world.

Ms Weinstein called for a “global approach” and said governments must be “clear eyed” and that regulation “preserves the potential” of AI.

“This nuanced approach is important if the UK is to pursue a competitive advantage in attracting inward investment associated with agile regulation,” the group said in its report.

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