Artificial Intelligence is not a technology of the future but one that is already here say experts in the field and businesses need to adapt or be left behind.

Speaking at this morning's PwC Herald Talks event focused on Business and Bots Josh Comrie, chief executive and co-founder of Artificial Intelligence (AI) firm Ambit, said there had been a shift from IQ to EQ and the future would be AQ - adaptability.

"Those who succeed are those that are most adaptable, and we need to start early," Comrie said.

"Now is not the time to ignore what is going on around you, it is the time to be curious and adventurous and to start exploring the technology."


A report released last week highlighted the potential AI had to improve the country's GDP by up to $53 billion before 2035.

Artificial Intelligence, Shaping a Future New Zealand also found over the next 40 years AI-driven job displacement would account for just 10 per cent of normal job creation and destruction.

"This is the fourth industrial revolution, we've been through three already and in all of those, we saw job losses but also new job creation. And it will be the same with this one," Comrie said.

The potential for AI in business was discussed among the panel which included University of Canterbury law lecturer Dr Olivia Erdelyi, Westpac Ventures director Mike Burke and Intela AI chief executive and co-founder Asa Cox.

Asked whether New Zealand AI had reached critical mass, Burke said it was likely there would be several critical mass points.

"One part of this is about building the technology to make it available but the other part is about people actually using it," Burke said.

"It's a two-way street and it really needs people developing it as well as using it because it will get smarter as we do this."

The panel agreed that for those who were displaced, retraining and retooling would be necessary, however according to Comrie there would likely be a lag time ahead of this.

"These evolutions don't just happen, people's behaviour doesn't change overnight so there will be a lag but it's about how we prepare for this that will count," he said.

Countries such as Canada, China, France, Singapore, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and the UK have all developed multi-million dollar national AI investment strategies, while New Zealand currently does not.

Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media Minister Clare Curran has said addressing this would be a main focus for the government.

She said an action plan was urgently needed to address the lack of skills and understanding of AI technologies, as well as legislation to govern its use.