2019: Brexit continues to make fools of us all, but it’s AI to the rescue


May you live in interesting times – or so the old Chinese curse goes. Well, we’re certainly doing that. In 2017, the global economy was firing on all cylinders, and things weren’t looking too bad. Since then, a mixture of protectionism, the Sino-US trade war and economic uncertainty has changed all that. 2018 was the UK’s most difficult economic year since the financial crisis. 2019 will probably see businesses remaining cautious until they have more clarity and certainty.

Well, there is a silver lining, and it comes in the form of technology. The way that certain politicians have used the concept of artificial intelligence (AI) to fill the gaps in their arguments this year might make you roll your eyes, but there is truth in it. Here’s how AI is going to change things in 2019 and beyond.

It will help replace missing skills

We’re currently witnessing an employment miracle. Since 2010 the private sector has managed to replace the vast number of jobs lost in the 2008 crash by seven or eight to one. Despite lots of coverage of the gig economy and zero-hours contracts, the vast majority of new jobs are full-time roles.

But that’s about to change. There’s a reverse in EU migration – it’s now negative. That’s a huge hit to the labour supply. Replacing it will push us towards automation, as business invest in talent augmentation to tide them over. That means that AI will shoulder more of the burden of routine tasks in 2019, leaving staff to focus on the important, business-critical tasks.

It won’t take your job – it’ll make you a new one

Similar to all of the momentous technology changes of the last four decades (and there have been plenty), AI will disrupt business – but it won’t lead to anything as catastrophic as widespread unemployment. It will generate wealth and new jobs at the same time as changing the way that other jobs are done. 

#AI will generate wealth and new jobs at the same time as changing the way that other #jobs are done. Click To Tweet

Just like Microsoft Word and mail merge did away with typists but didn’t leave millions out of work, so AI applications will remove the need for certain menial tasks while creating new ways for humans to add value to their companies. As the horizons of what can be achieved broaden – spotting fraud earlier, more accurately detecting terrorist activity and so on – jobs will change to match. We’re going to see employment evolve, not disappear. 

Hidden Insights: 2019: Brexit continues to make fools of us all, but it’s AI to the rescue

It will finally make it out of the lab and into the boardroom

The vast majority of big companies have AI projects on the go at present. But at the moment, many of them are “interesting” rather than useful or profitable. Getting them across the useful line is always the aim – achieving the talent augmentation discussed above. Making that jump is hard, but if the business value is there, it will be scaled. For example, computer vision has seen a huge uptake in manufacturing because of its ability to make quality checks more efficient.

Analytics is still the same as it ever was – it turns lead into gold, or rather, data into insights. AI is just an advance on that, and in 2019 we’re going to see its business use increase exponentially. 

Ultimately, AI has the power to make life better for people. There’s less nonsense in your inbox, you get faster mortgage approvals, your bank’s less likely to block your card when you buy a MacBook, staff jobs get more interesting as the boring jobs are automated – and so on. The British and global economies are facing some serious challenges in the coming 12 months, but technology, and specifically AI, has the power to improve the picture. 

Find out more about how AI is already providing solutions for organisations.


About Author

Dr. Laurie Miles

Director, Global Cloud Analytics

Laurie Miles is a Global Director of Cloud Analytics, providing analytical advice and thought leadership globally across all industry verticals. He brings over 25 years of real-world analytics experience to the role. After joining SAS in 1996, Laurie was a consultant delivering analysis focussed projects to organisations from a variety of industry sectors including financial services, telecommunications, retail and utilities. He became SAS UK’s Head of Retail Banking Technology in 2000. Laurie was later appointed Head of Analytics for SAS UK & Ireland in 2008, working with some of the UK’s largest organisations providing strategic advice and forming industry best practice. In this role Laurie also pioneered the development of the SAS Analytics-as-a-Service solution, “SAS Results”. In January 2015 was appointed to lead this globally as part of the SAS Cloud Analytics proposition. Laurie holds a BSc in Econometrics, an MSc in Game Theory and a PhD in Number Theory.

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