Machines capable of carrying out tasks normally reserved for humans will boost global GDP by as much as 14 percent by 2030, according to PwC.
In a report
, the global auditing and consulting firm argued that the widespread adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) can contribute $15.7 million to the world economy over the next decade, the equivalent of the current combined output of China and India, as it would vastly increase productivity and spur shoppers to spend more.
According to the firm's calculations, the bulk of these gains, $9.1 trillion, will be generated by consumption-side effects. Shoppers, driven to work by autonomous cars, are expected to use their extra time and resources to buy personalized and higher-quality goods. The U.S. is forecast to be a major beneficiary of this trend - PwC reckons that consumption patterns triggered by AI will add $3.7 trillion to the North American economy.
China is predicted to be an even bigger beneficiary, particularly as it's heavily dependent on manufacturing, an industry that is expected to receive a huge economic boost from the introduction of automated robotic workforces.
"The mindset today is man versus machine," Anand Rao, an AI researcher at PwC in Boston, said following the release of the report, according to Bloomberg. "What we see as the future is man and machine together can be better than the human."
One of the biggest controversies surrounding AI, aside from fears that robots might one day malfunction and turn on humans, is the risks they pose to jobs. While automated manufacturing processes might save companies plenty over the long-run, it is also true that this process could come at the expense of employees, potentially leaving billions of people out of work.
Some 42 percent of the $15.7 trillion that PwC claims AI can pump into the global economy is expected to be generated by automated machinery in the workplace. If this phenomenon leads to mass job losses, as many predict, the report's argument of stronger consumption patterns suddenly appears less convincing. (See also: Buffett Slams Wealth Inequality, Calls GOP Health Bill 'Relief for the Rich'.)
PwC thinks otherwise, arguing that new jobs will be created to coincide with the rising adoption of AI. "The adoption of 'no-human-in-the-loop' technologies will mean that some posts will inevitably become redundant, but others will be created by the shifts in productivity and consumer demand emanating from AI, and through the value chain of AI itself," said the report. "In addition to new types of workers who will focus on thinking creatively about how AI can be developed and applied, a new set of personnel will be required to build, maintain, operate, and regulate these emerging technologies."