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New technology could hit living standards, Nicola Sturgeon warns

Rolf Vennenbernd/DPA/PA Images

New technology could hit living standards, Nicola Sturgeon warns

There is a “real risk” that the growth of automation and increased use of artificial intelligence will see communities across Scotland left behind, Nicola Sturgeon has warned.

Speaking at the Wellbeing Economy Alliance conference, the First Minister said the growth of new technology will bring new opportunities for Scotland, but that their introduction must be carefully managed to ensure that the benefits are shared.

The Scottish Government has worked with the Scottish Trades Union Congress to examine the effects of new technologies on the economy and workforce, with a joint 2018 report finding “there is a plausible case that the technological change in the 21st century could pose new and serious challenges in sustaining a labour market that supports broadly based prosperity”.

Appearing in Edinburgh, Sturgeon said her government aimed to create an economy where "collective wellbeing" was as fundamental as GDP, but warned that the movement to a low carbon economy and the growth of new technologies would also pose challenges for communities and workers.

The SNP leader said: “As we moved to increased use of technology, such as artificial intelligence, there is again a big potential for real economic benefit, particularly for country like Scotland, and for a city like Edinburgh, where there is already a very strong, vibrant and growing tech sector.

“But there are also a range of ethical questions to confront. There is also a real risk that as we make that transition, individuals and communities are left behind, so we must work now to make sure that does not happen.”

She added: “As with decarbonization, if we focus solely on increasing overall output, we might actually reduce living standards and happiness and wellbeing of individuals and communities, who lose out or feel like they are losing out. But by putting wellbeing at heart of everything we do we increase the chances of major technological and economic changes bringing benefits to the greatest number of people across our country.”

The FM also outlined plans to host an international business-led summit on the benefits of a wellbeing economy to the private sector.

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