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Investors believe it is ‘inevitable’ that artificial intelligence will destroy millions of jobs and that governments are unprepared for such an impact, according to a new survey.

Artificial intelligence is feared by experts who warn it will cause chaos in the future
Artificial intelligence is feared by experts who warn it will cause chaos in the future

Artificial intelligence (AI), or the process by which computers or robots take on tasks that need human intelligence, is one of the key themes of this week’s Web Summit in Lisbon.

The poll among 224 venture capitalists attending the conference showed 53 percent believed AI would destroy millions of jobs and 93 percent saw governments as unprepared for this.

The survey also found that 83 percent of the investors canvassed expect Britain’s exit from the European Union to damage Europe’s economy and 77 percent believe it will damage British startups.

London is widely seen as the main tech startup hub in Europe, thanks to its large pool of talent and a much bigger pool of funding than in rival centres.

Cities like Berlin, Amsterdam and Lisbon are eager to attract more tech startups.

The Web Summit, one of Europe’s biggest tech conferences, is being held for the first time in Lisbon, with 53,000 attendees, after moving from Dublin where it was first launched in 2010.

The venture capitalists taking part have more than $100 billion of capital in total to invest. The Web Summit conducted the poll on Nov. 7.

It comes as the UN warns as manufacturers increasingly turn to industrial robots, workers in developing countries will be hit hardest.

So far, automation has largely been introduced to automotive, electrical, and electronics industries, posing a risk to low-wage workers in Mexico and many countries in Asia.

While workers in North America and other developed regions may also be affected by the shift, developing countries could soon lose ‘about two thirds of all jobs’ and risk the exploitation of low-wage workers in areas robots have yet to master. 

The estimates come from a new report by the UN Conference on Trade and Development, which warns of the mixed benefits and risks of ‘disruptive technologies.’

As many of these lower-skilled jobs had already disappeared in developed countries, the effect of automation and reshoring could bring about extreme losses in developing countries.

The use of robots will reduce the value of human labour in these settings as they act as a ‘close substitute’ for these workers, the report explains, putting many people out of jobs.

‘The increased use of robots in developed countries risks eroding the traditional labour-cost advantage of developing countries,’ the report says.

‘The share of occupations that could experience significant automation is actually higher in developing counties than in more advanced ones, where many of these jobs have already disappeared, and this concerns about two thirds of all jobs.’

Automation could also cause developing countries to put more focus on jobs that robots are not yet capable of taking on, like garment-making.

‘In many labour-intensive industries, such as garment-making, widespread automation is not yet suitable,’ the report explains.

‘While robots have become cheaper, some developing countries continue to have a large pool of cheap labour.

‘Thus, for those countries whose major challenge is to create jobs for a large number of low-skilled entrants to the labour force – such as in many parts of Africa – deploying robots under current cost structures many drive production costs up, rather than down.’

The report comes just days after Tesla CEO Elon Musk claimed automation will soon cause global job displacement and the adoption of a ‘universal basic income.’

The billionaire explained that our options may be limited in the future as automation becomes the norm, and this could even leave people with more time to enjoy their lives.

Musk said humans will eventually need to achieve symbiosis with ‘digital super-intelligence’ in order to cope with the advancing world – but, he warns doing this might be the toughest challenge of all.

In an interview with CNBC, the CEO of Tesla, SolarCity, and SpaceX said certain jobs, like truck driving, may soon be lost to automated technologies.

And with machines taking over the workforce, human income would shift as well, potentially necessitating universal payments from the government.

‘There is a pretty good chance we end up with a universal basic income, or something like that, due to automation,’ Musk told CNBC.

‘I’m not sure what else one would do with this.

‘I think that’s what would happen.’

Musk went on to explain that some people may have plans to do more ‘complex’ and ‘more interesting’ things with these capabilities in the future.

This will open the door for more leisure time, he said.

‘And then we have to figure out how we integrate with a world in the future with advanced AI,’ Musk told CNBC, noting that this will likely be the ‘toughest’ part.

‘Ultimately,’ he said, ‘it would need to be some kind of improved symbiosis with digital super-intelligence.’

 Daily Mail