The relentless march of artificial intelligence and automation will inevitably lead to significant job losses and workforce disruption, according to tech entrepreneur Ian Hogarth, the newly appointed chair of the UK government’s AI taskforce. In an interview with the BBC, Hogarth warned that protecting British jobs will prove challenging as AI systems become more sophisticated and capable of automating a wider range of tasks.
This stark warning comes on the heels of recent announcements by major UK firms like BT that they aim to cut 10,000 jobs over the next 8 years specifically due to AI and automation. The writing seems to be on the wall that many roles could be threatened by intelligent algorithms and robots that can perform them faster, cheaper, and more accurately.
However, Hogarth also cautions against an overly pessimistic view, noting that past technological revolutions like the internet ultimately led to a net increase in new types of jobs, even if some roles became obsolete. He believes the challenge for government will be to maximize the upside of AI while protecting workers.
The taskforce itself has been allocated an initial £100 million budget to oversee AI safety research and help the country navigate the transition. While Hogarth did not specify exactly how the funds would be used, he hinted that infrastructure investments could be part of the strategy.
For example, providing startups and researchers with greater access to specialized AI hardware like graphics processing units (GPUs) could help level the playing field versus AI pioneers like Elon Musk. Reports indicate Musk was able to acquire 10,000 GPUs for his AI research, while UK startups can wait months for even one. Building a national infrastructure with pooled GPU resources could accelerate homegrown AI innovation.
The taskforce will also look at developing accountability mechanisms and regulations to minimize potential dangers from AI systems used in sensitive domains like law enforcement, cybersecurity, and healthcare. Hogarth highlighted the risk of harms like wrongful arrests or arrests if AI is not deployed carefully when augmented or automated decision making.
Healthcare conversely represents an area full of promise if AI is thoughtfully leveraged. Hogarth pointed to breakthroughs already emerging, with AI identifying new antibiotics, assisting rehabilitation, and spotting early disease indicators in scans. The hope is that the measured approach proposed by Hogarth and the taskforce will allow the UK to maximize the benefits while controlling the risks.
While the US and China have staked out an early lead in AI investment and research, Hogarth believes the UK can still thrive as a global AI hub. The country has advantages through its strong university system, diverse talent pool, and existing presence of many US tech giants who are prioritizing AI. Recent announcements by OpenAI and Palantir to establish major UK R&D centers are further cause for optimism.
The most important objective according to Hogarth is ensuring that average citizens start experiencing concrete AI benefits in their daily lives, whether through improved healthcare, education, transportation, or public services. This focus on inclusive prosperity for all could give the UK an advantage over other countries racing for AI supremacy without regard for ethics or social good.
The road ahead will undoubtedly be challenging, and AI-driven automation will sadly make some jobs redundant. But with careful planning and responsible leadership, the UK can hopefully navigate these disruptions in a way that strengthens the economy, creates new exciting careers, and improves lives across the country. The institutions like the AI taskforce will play a crucial role and should be monitored closely as they chart the path forward.