Which countries are ready for the effects of AI?

I was at an AI conference in France last week and there was lots of talk about which countries will lead in the creation of AI. Most of the talk focused on the U.S. and China and, given the venue, what role Europe might play. But which countries are ready for the effects of AI? Like digital technology more generally, AI will, in whatever form it takes, put social pressure on societies. It will require societies to retool education, to redistribute income, to provide social insurance, and to revise laws. Of the countries that excel in technology, which are also ready to do that?

I decided to compare two rankings of countries on innovation with a ranking of countries by social progress. The idea is that to succeed with AI and digital in general countries need both to be good at technology (innovation), and to be good at inclusion — at ensuring that their citizens are taken care of, even in the face of social disruption.

To save time, I simply took the top 10 countries from Bloomberg’s and WEF’s innovation rankings, and the top 20 from the Social Progress Index. And then I looked for countries that made at least one of the innovation rankings, but also the social progress ranking.

Notably, Sweden and Finland are in the top 10 on all three lists. The U.S. and the UK make both innovation lists and the top 20 in social progress (though not the top 10).

Others to make one of the innovation top 10’s and the social progress top 20 included: Switzerland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, France, Japan, and Ireland.

Countries that made one of the innovation top 10s but not the social progress top 20 include: Singapore (which made both innovation top 10’s), South Korea, and Israel.

Finally, countries that made the social progress top 20 but not either innovation top 10 include: Iceland, Norway, Australia, New Zealand, Austria, Belgium, Spain, and Portugal.

A successful society must be both innovative and inclusive, and the digital revolution illustrates the importance of doing both at once. The countries that manage that will be able to deliver rising living standards for their citizens. The ones that don’t will have a harder time.

Of course, some countries may have it harder than others. Here’s one estimate of how automation will affect different countries.

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