Royal Society: UK must support machine learning sector

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Machine learning will become a core part of the digital economy in the UK, according to a new report by the Royal Society.

The organisation called for action in several key areas over the next five to 10 years to create an environment of "careful stewardship" that can help ensure that "the dividends from machine learning the form of artificial intelligence that allows machines to learn from data benefit all in UK society".

The technology will also require the UK to build digital skills and understanding at every level from schools to universities, and in the workplace, as well as to "ensure that opportunities are not limited by gender, ethnicity or socio-economic background", the report said.

It also called upon the government to introduce funded Master's courses in Machine Learning to develop expertise across business, industry, and research sectors. It also said that there is a critical need for increased training at PhD level and beyond to invest in the next generation of research leaders in machine learning.

"There is already high demand for people with advanced skills, and additional resources to increase this talent pool are critically needed," the report said.

Machine learning must also be integrated into the government's industrial strategy, to help businesses make the most of its potential. It added that research in machine learning should be supported, including in areas that can address social or ethical concerns.

Professor Peter Donnelly, chair of the report's working group and director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, said that machine learning will have an increasing impact on our lives and lifestyles over the next decade.

"There is much work to be done so that we take advantage of machine learning's potential and ensure that the benefits are shared, especially as this could be a key area of opportunity for the UK in the coming years," he said.

Rene Millman

Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.