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'Huge swathe' of jobs vulnerable to artificial intelligence, experts warn

Many industries are facing the possibility that computers could take the place of human workers at a faster rate than new jobs are created, experts have warned.

A panel of experts speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Wednesday morning claimed that the issues arising from improved artificial intelligence need should be discussed in greater detail in order to avoid potential socio-economic disasters.

"We have some studies looking at to which jobs are the most vulnerable and there are quite a lot of them in logistics, administration, insurance underwriting," said Dr Stuart Armstrong from the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford.

"Ultimately, huge swathe of jobs are potentially vulnerable to improved artificial intelligence."

A study last year that Dr Armstrong was involved with looked into the susceptibility of jobs to computerisation.

According to estimates, 47 per cent of total US employment is at risk of computerisation within the next couple of decades. The occupations most at risk are those with "low wages and educational attainment".

Related: Google buys UK artificial intelligence startup DeepMind Technologies

Countering Dr Armstrong's claims on the Today programme, professor of cognitive robotics at Imperial College London Dr Murray Shanahan said that past examples suggest that new jobs would be created by new technologies.

"In the past when we have developed new kinds of technologies then often they have created jobs at the same time as taking them over," Dr Shanahan said.

However, he did concede that such developments are "very difficult to predict", and that "it certainly is something we ought to be discussing".