Artificial Intelligence? Bring it on

Four fifths of built environment professionals think AI will have a positive impact on the infrastructure sector, according to a survey by the Institution of Civil Engineers.

The survey was carried out prior to the James Forrest lecture at ICE's George Street HQ in London, given by National Infrastructure Commission commissioner Andy Green. Of those surveyed, 78% think AI will have a positive impact, 63% believe it will increase productivity, but fewer than 25% believe AI will be able to replace human interactions for dispute management, consenting and project approvals.

A workshop following the lecture revealed that many in the sector fear that the technology is not widely understood, ICE says. Many also believe that piloting would be required in order to demonstrate to everyone involved in the infrastructure sector what benefits AI could bring.

ICE President, Tim Broyd, said: “Our industry and much of society is only beginning to realise the transformative power of AI.  Now is the time to assess and analyse how we can best take advantage of it, identifying both the challenges and opportunities. The research shows that the government, built environment professionals and the technology sector should work together to build the necessary leadership, governance framework and skills to fully exploit the potential of AI.”

The NIC is currently exploring the potential benefits and impacts of artificial intelligence on the infrastructure sector. Andy Green said: ”Artificial Intelligence is an integral part of our lives – it’s only right that it should also help boost productivity and improve how we manage our infrastructure. Today’s survey findings reveal an industry ready to accept that challenge, and see how this new technology can make a real difference to the sector and to people’s lives."

Those who completed the survey held mixed views on how AI would impact the nature of the profession. While half think that that AI could pose a threat to jobs in the sector, a similar number (48%) believe that AI will lead to new skills and professional opportunities.