Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence

AI to boost China’s growth, with manufacturing and agriculture to benefit, says report

AI could give China much-needed productivity boost, as the number of working-age population continues to decline, says a report by Accenture

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 August, 2017, 9:03pm
UPDATED : Monday, 07 August, 2017, 10:10pm

Artificial intelligence (AI) could add as much as 1.6 percentage points to China’s economic growth rate by 2035, with industries like manufacturing, agriculture and retail seeing the most value from the technology, according to a recent report.

As China’s economic growth slows, a report by consultancy firm Accenture suggests that the advent of AI could give the country a much-needed boost in productivity and growth, especially as the number of working-age population in the country continues to decline.

“AI capabilities have only just matured, such that they are able to interpret data at a speed and a cost that is reasonable and affordable for companies to take advantage of,” said Adam Burden, Accenture’s global lead for advanced technology & architecture.

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“The largest area of opportunity for AI in China’s growth is absolutely manufacturing...the instrumentation of manufacturing has really only just begun. The Internet of Things, taking data and telemetry off machines and manufacturing lines for greater productivity is really just beginning.”

The Internet of Things, taking data and telemetry off machines and manufacturing lines for greater productivity is really just beginning
Adam Burden, Accenture

Should AI become a new factor of production in China, with robots and intelligent machines performing manufacturing tasks, almost US$6.3 trillion can be added to China’s gross value added (GVA) in 2035 – a metric which measures contribution to the country’s economy. That would represent almost 19 per cent of China’s total GVA.

According to Accenture, AI will have the largest impact on industries such as manufacturing, retail and agriculture in China, as well as allowing labour-intensive sectors such as health care to become more productive over time by allowing workers to focus on more critical tasks, while AI handles the more mundane ones.

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In the manufacturing sector, the use of AI is expected to account for an additional US$2.7 trillion in GVA in the industry by 2035, a 31-per cent increase compared to if AI was not utilised.

“Too many people try to associate AI with human intelligence. But the problem is...there are things that humans can do that machines cannot, and there are things that machines can do that humans absolutely cannot,” Burden said.

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“For example, a human being would have no hope of looking through tens of millions of pages of data [in seconds].

“AI can take the mundane and the ordinary out of our lives and improve the human condition in the long run.”

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While AI technology will cause disruptions in China’s workforce, such as displacing manufacturing workers from factories as businesses favour robots and machines, Burden emphasised that the point of artificial intelligence is not to replace humans.

“AI is here to serve us – it makes humans super,” Burden said. “People will be retrained for new employment, new roles...we will need people who are trained to manage or operate the [AI] systems.”