A recent OECD study estimates that 14% of jobs in developed countries are “highly automatable”, while a McKinsey report from last year suggests that as many as 400 million to 800 million jobs worldwide could be automated by 2030.
It is clear that automation will have a major impact on the economy, but which countries are best placed to deal with the economic and social challenges?
According to a report by the Economist, South Korea, Germany and Singapore are the best prepared economies for robots and artificial intelligence (AI). The index ranks countries by how prepared they are for what the authors call “intelligent automation.”
The Economist bases the country rankings on more than 50 different indicators, ranging from education policies and labour market legislation to innovation environments, including money spent on research and development. While recognizing that some countries are doing better than others, the findings indicate that no country has implemented a workable strategy for addressing the new wave of automation.
“The challenges and opportunities of intelligent automation require a robust policy response informed by multi-stakeholder engagement but, so far, both are lacking,” say the authors. They urge governments to develop more effective education policies and training programmes to prepare future generations of workers.
They suggest encouraging continual learning over the course of a career to ensure that people are prepared for new kinds of work as machines take on more of the routine tasks. “Intelligent automation is expected to boost the importance of both education related to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and of so-called soft skills which allow workers to trade on their uniquely human capabilities,” says the report.
Automation is most likely to have an impact on the manufacturing industry and agriculture, although it could also affect the service sector, land transport and food services.
The Economist report comes shortly after ISO/IEC experts from 18 countries met in Beijing to launch standardization work in the area of AI. The new subcommittee, SC 42, provides guidance to ISO/IEC JTC 1, the Joint Technical Committee of the IEC and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).
JTC 1/SC 42 has set up a working group (WG1) on Foundational Standards, focusing on first two approved projects: artificial intelligence concepts and terminology (ISO/IEC 22989); and a framework for artificial intelligence systems using machine learning (ISO/IEC 23053).
In addition, the plenary meeting in Beijing established three study groups:
- SG 1 is investigating computational approaches and characteristics of artificial intelligence systems, in order to study different technologies used by AI systems (e.g. machine learning algorithms, reasoning), including their properties and characteristics. It is looking into existing specialized AI systems (e.g. computer vision, natural language processing) to understand and identify their underlying computational approaches, architectures, and characteristics, as well as industry practices, processes and methods for the application of AI systems.
- SG 2 is exploring approaches to establishing trust in AI systems through transparency, verifiability, explainability and controllability. SG2 will also identify engineering pitfalls and assess typical associated threats and risks to AI systems with their mitigation techniques and methods. It is looking into approaches to achieving the robustness, resiliency, reliability, accuracy, safety, security and privacy of AI systems, as well as types of sources of bias in AI systems with a goal of minimization, including but not limited to statistical bias in AI systems and AI-aided decision-making.
- SG 3 is considering cases and applications in order to identify different AI application domains (e.g. social networks, embedded systems) and the different contexts of their use (e.g. healthcare, smart home, autonomous cars). It is collecting representative use cases and describing applications with the terminology and concepts defined in ISO/IEC 22989 and ISO/IEC 23053 and extending the terms as necessary.
Elsewhere, a number of TCs (Technical Committees) prepare International Standards connected with specific areas of industrial automation. IEC TC 65: Industrial-process measurement, control and automation, provides many of the Standards that are relevant for industry.
IEC TC 2: Rotating machinery, IEC TC 17: Switchgear and controlgear, IEC TC 22: Power electronic systems and equipment, IEC TC 44: Safety of machinery – Electrotechnical aspects, and IEC TC 66: Safety of measuring, control and laboratory equipment, all play important roles in this field.