Kiwi businesses need to get on board with artificial intelligence - despite mass adoption of the technology being years away.

AI is expected to increase productivity and skilled workforce, according to a leading national report commissioned by the AI Forum New Zealand, to be released on May 2.

New Zealand AI Forum executive director Ben Reid says artificial intelligence could soon become part of our daily working lives in a similar way as the internet or electricity has.

"We're looking at AI as a similar change to the advent of electricity or the advent of the internet. Both of those changes were transformational to the way that the economy and businesses operate," Reid said.


"If AI adoption follows a similar pattern to those other major technologies, then it will be a similar number of years in terms of business uptake, so between 20 and 40 years for mass adoption of AI throughout all businesses and all society."

AI and machine learning will be front and centre at the next PwC Herald Talks event in Auckland and Wellington.

Josh Comrie - co-founder and chief executive of chat bot developer firm Ambit - will lead the speaker line up.

Comrie will he will focus on the history and state of AI, the current uses of the technology, why it's likely to change the world and how you can get started.

While AI and robots already exist in the New Zealand economy, particular in the rural sector, Reid says we will see a big take-off in AI within the next five years.

"AI is already here, I think we're going to see a significantly accelerated uptake in the next three to five years," Reid said.

Reid says we need to move away from the narrative of AI taking away jobs, to AI actually creating new jobs.

"Traditionally there's been a lot of publications which do propose that AI's going to create mass unemployment and mass job loss, but I think the research that we've found [shows this] is actually not the case," Reid said.

Reid says historically every year tasks within a job get automated and a number of jobs do get displaced by technology, however, this opens the way for new jobs to be created.

"A example would be where airport check-in has been automated with the kiosk and yet there's new jobs now where people basically help people to check in."

PwC Herald Talks – Business & Bots
• Wed 9 May, 7-9am at SKYCITY Theatre, Auckland
• Thu 10 May, 7-9am at Shed 6, Wellington
• Buy tickets at