Why aren’t the world’s governments ready for the impact of AI on jobs?

Pepper, Aldebaran’s humanoid robot, on the TalkRobot stage at Web Summit 2016

Governments are failing to prepare for the impact of artificial intelligence, which is set to destroy millions of jobs, according to a poll of the world’s top technology investors.

A survey of investors at Venture, the premier VC event that took place during Web Summit in Lisbon, found that 53 percent agreed that it was “inevitable that artificial intelligence will destroy millions of jobs”.

The vast majority of investors (93 percent) said governments were not prepared for the impact of AI on jobs.

Venture, Web Summit’s premier conference for VCs, was opened by the Portuguese prime minister, António Costa. The one-day event saw more than 500 attendees from the top global VCs, PE funds, angels and LPs gather for the most significant global gathering of VCs in the world, with over $100 billion worth of investable capital in the room.

The vast majority of investors agreed that Brexit is damaging to the European economy (82 percent) and a similar number that it directly damages British startups (77 percent).

The news was not good for Ireland, following the European Commission’s tax ruling on Apple and Ireland earlier this year. Nearly three in four VCs (71.8 percent) viewed Ireland less favourably as a location for multinational companies.

The EC has ruled that Ireland must demand back taxes from Apple of €13 billion after a three-year investigation of Apple’s tax arrangements in Ireland. Both Apple and the Irish government are appealing the ruling.

In the exclusive poll, most investors agreed (64.5 percent) that Ireland is “tax haven”, despite the Irish government’s insistence that it it is simply a low tax jurisdiction.

Asked if Ireland remained “the most attractive country in Europe for foreign direct investment”, 61.3 percent said no.

The poll also found that the biggest threat to the tech industry, according to investors, were labour laws and regulation (28.2 percent). Other threats were:

A global recession: 25.8 percent

Collapse of free trade agreements: 16.9 percent

Consolidation of capital among big five tech companies: 14.5 percent

Lower levels of disposable income: 8.1 percent

Access to talent is by far most important factor in deciding where to locate in Europe, the investors said.

Access to talent: 66.9 percent

Access to markets: 17.7 percent

Corporate tax rate: 4.8 percent

Language: 4 percent

Lifestyle choices — food, culture etc: 4 percent

And in a surprise result investors said that the least innovative major tech company was… Apple, with 39 percent saying this.

Methodology: Web Summit polled 224 global investors in face-to-face interviews on November 7. Of those who took part, just under half were venture capitalists and the remaining participants were a mixture of corporate venture capitalists, accelerators, private equity fund managers, limited partners, investment bankers and angel investors.

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