Technology and AI will play a crucial role in our future - Ian Murray

My daughter is nearly three and can use an iPad as if it is an extra limb. The next generation are immersed in new technology and while I’ve always been proficient in tech, I do feel the jobs her generation will end up doing aren’t even invented yet.

Technology has led to a recent debate about the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Platforms like ChatGPT have become part of the public consciousness at extraordinary pace.

This week marks Tech Week, and rather than leave it to Hollywood scriptwriters to envisage our future, it is an opportunity for a sensible discussion about how tech will shape the decades to come.

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Inevitably, there are lots of concerns among the public given headlines like “AI could kill off the human race!”.

What the experts all seem to agree on, however, is that governments have a responsibility to ensure that AI is developed responsibly.

The opportunities that tech offers are enormous. It can transform our lives, raise productivity, create good jobs, assist medical research, accelerate science to tackle the climate emergency, and deliver better public services.

But that will only be possible with governments willing to partner with business to ensure the benefits are felt by all. The UK has a unique opportunity to shape this future, with Scotland at the heart of it.

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We are third in the world for tech businesses behind the US and China. There is a formidable science and research base across the UK, with world-leading universities, cutting edge businesses, a strong reputation for regulation, and organisations working on governance of new technologies.

As part of the UK, Scotland benefits from huge R&D investment and we are a key part in this exciting future. Edinburgh is home to The Data Lab, the national innovation centre which is working to build skills and grow talent right here.

We also have extraordinary tech talent at Edinburgh University in AI, innovation, and robotics. With the new Futures Institute opening in September.

But all this potential is currently being held back by the Tory government in Westminster which is stifling economic growth.

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The Tories risk repeating the mistakes of the past when de-industrialisation left millions behind. It is vital that we progress to a green tech-based future that prioritises equality.

Keir Starmer has been clear that Labour, in government, will take a whole economy approach, “recognising that tech is not just a sector, but every job and every business must become digital if we are to address the UK’s productivity and inequality problem”. He has outlined plans for a new agenda on digital skills through a ‘growth and skills’ levy for future jobs.

In Scotland, Anas Sarwar is putting tech at the heart of his economic strategy. Already, my Edinburgh MSP colleague Daniel Johnson has published a paper on ‘changing skills’.

We need to ensure that our future workforce is properly equipped to grab these new opportunities.

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We have to maximise wages, remove barriers, increase flexibility of skills agencies, and adapt for the changing economy.

For too long, political policy debate has only been about social policy – with very little focus on economics, particularly when it comes to the SNP in Holyrood.

We must embrace the opportunities that tech brings for our future and ensure that nobody is left behind.

Ian Murray is Labour MP for Edinburgh South

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