Australia’s outgoing productivity czar has pointed to artificial intelligence as a potentially “significant” driver of a productivity revolution, as the Western world struggles to climb out of a malaise in workplace efficiency.
(Bloomberg) — Australia’s outgoing productivity czar has pointed to artificial intelligence as a potentially “significant” driver of a productivity revolution, as the Western world struggles to climb out of a malaise in workplace efficiency.
Productivity Commissioner Michael Brennan said AI was one of the most high-potential technologies to improve economic output in coming decades, while emphasizing that it was still in an early phase of development.
“If we were to see a revival, a significant revival of productivity growth in the developed world, I would imagine that artificial intelligence is probably a key part of that,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg. Brennan will be succeeded by Chris Barrett after his five-year term ends in September.
A government report released on Thursday examining trends in the decades ahead predicted that Australia’s productivity growth would be 1.2% annually in the long-term, down from 1.5% in the same report just two years ago. The 0.3 percentage point drop in productivity will cut estimated real GDP over the next forty years by almost 10%.
The report emphasizes that Australia isn’t alone — developed economies across the world have seen a drop in productivity, as easy gains from technology advancements begin to dry up. However, Brennan said he was optimistic about the potential for gains in the future.
“We don’t really know yet just how far artificial intelligence and machine learning could go, but a moment’s reflection tells you that there is very significant scope for that to assist and augment human labor across a whole range of particularly service industries,” he said.
Market demand for AI programs and chips has caused the profile of companies associated with the new technology to soar in recent months, including chipmaker Nvidia, which forecast massive profits for the three-month period ending in October. At the same time, governments across the world are weighing the benefits and dangers of AI technology.
Earlier in August, the Australian government extended a consultation into potential AI regulations after a significant amount of interest from stakeholders. Industry and Science Minister Ed Husic told Bloomberg he hoped to get the regulations completed by the end of 2023.
Brennan said he was confident the government would approach AI regulation in a “thoughtful way,” adding the technology wasn’t “completely without risk.”
“But of course, the offsetting principle is we want to be open to the scope for innovation here,” he said. “It’s never a complete replacement or substitute for human judgment and oversight, but it could play a role, right?”
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