Tech companies are investing heavily in artificial intelligence, and touting the financial benefits of AI-powered technologies like robots, virtual assistants and augmented reality, Now, a new study reports that artificial intelligence could dramatically boost economic growth and productivity.
The Accenture report looked at 12 countries and found that AI — or technology that senses the environment, comprehends what's happening and takes action — could increase productivity by up to 40 percent in 2035.
The report also forecasts economic growth in the U.S. could increase from 2.6 percent to 4.6 percent over the same period with the adoption of AI technologies.
Among the countries that stand to make the largest gains in productivity from AI in 2035 are Sweden, Finland, the U.S. and Japan.
"The impact this has is that it automates a lot of the low-level tasks and gets them done with higher satisfaction," says Accenture's chief technology officer, Paul Daugherty. "It frees up employees to do things they get more satisfaction out of, which is solving more complex problems, and dealing with the more complex issues that arise in business."
The study looked at how AI is incorporated in a range of fields, from the hotel industry to finance. Daugherty says in one example, analysts studied assembly line workers at one of the largest global manufacturing companies who were equipped with augmented reality goggles.
"The technology can learn the workers' capability, help them understand best practice and help workers do higher-skilled jobs with higher quality, higher productivity, more effectively," says Daugherty.
The study says AI creates growth by automating tasks, deploying across a broad cross section of industries and roles, and having self-learning capabilities.
But critics of AI say automated technology eliminates jobs. A recent Forrester report found that within five years, AI-powered technologies will cut 6 percent of jobs in the U.S.
While Daugherty acknowledges "short-term displacement," he believes the long-term economic benefits outweigh the near-term consequences, and the key to minimizing the impact to jobs is to educate workers on how to use AI so they can focus on high-value skills.
The report was released the same day a group of tech giants — including Amazon, Facebook, Google, IBM and Microsoft — announced a partnership on AI to support best practices and advance public understanding about artificial intelligence.
Daugherty believes AI is the most transformative force to the global economy today. "We're just at the start of a new era of applying artificial intelligence in a big way to transform business," he says. "It will be bigger than the cloud, it will be bigger than the overall digital business wave we're looking at because it stands to transform the way humans interact with technology and its consumers and workers."