Concerns Rise as Companies Replace Human Employees with AI

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Photo Credits - Markus Spiske via Unsplash

Ian Hogarth, the new head of the UK government’s AI taskforce, believes that protecting British jobs will be challenging as artificial intelligence systems become more advanced. In a conversation with BBC, he acknowledges that automation will lead to more jobs being replaced by AI systems, which will require a rethinking of how people work worldwide. Due to AI adoption, there will be winners and losers in terms of job distribution globally.

Some companies have already reported job losses as they opt for AI tools over human workers. However, others believe that AI will create new job opportunities as the internet did in the past. The task force’s goal is to understand the risks associated with advanced AI systems and hold companies accountable, with a focus on AI safety research.

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Concerns of AI Replacing Humans

Globally, AI has caused disruptions across various workplaces. 

IBM’s CEO, Arvind Krishna, revealed in an interview with Bloomberg News that the company will freeze hiring as it expects around 7,800 jobs to be replaced by AI in the next few years. He believes that nearly one-third of non-customer-facing roles (approximately 26,000 workers) could be replaced by AI and automation over the next five years. Although back-office employees are a small portion of IBM’s total workforce of about 260,000, the company has continued to hire selectively despite laying off about 5,000 workers in other areas.

Krishna’s comments come amidst concerns about the rapid advancement of AI-powered technology, which could potentially lead to significant disruptions in various industries. While some analysts fear mass layoffs due to AI, others argue that the technology’s ability to improve productivity and complement human workers will create new jobs and industries. As an example, Chegg, a California-based learning company, saw its share price plunge by nearly 50 per cent after its CEO acknowledged that ChatGPT, an AI-powered language model, was impacting the company’s new customer growth rate.

While AI offers potential benefits in healthcare and other areas, concerns about its potential to cause harm, and expert opinions on the existential threat posed by AI differ. The UK government has made AI a priority, aiming to become a global hub for the sector.

However, there are challenges in positioning the UK as a key player in AI, including access to specialized hardware and start-up funding. Ian Hogarth suggests that directing critical AI infrastructure at the national level might be a solution. Despite the challenges, he remains optimistic that the UK can still play a significant role in the AI revolution.

UK Government Taskforce

The Taskforce led by Ian Hogarth reports directly to the Prime Minister and Technology Secretary. Ian is a leading authority on AI and has been co-authoring the annual State of AI report since 2018. He is also a visiting professor at University College London and has a strong background in tech entrepreneurship as the founder of the start-up Songkick and the venture capital fund Plural.

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The appointment aims to bring valuable experience to develop AI technology responsibly, aligning with the government’s AI strategy and the AI White Paper launch. Ian’s commercial experience and AI sector connections will be instrumental in his role.

Under his leadership, the Taskforce will focus on cutting-edge safety research in preparation for the first global summit on AI safety, which will take place in the UK later this year. The Taskforce will bring together expertise from government, industry, and academia to address the risks surrounding AI, research AI safety, and contribute to the development of international safety and security standards and infrastructure.

It will address unique safety challenges related to this type of AI. Their work is crucial in harnessing AI opportunities while building public trust in its use. AI companies are collaborating with the Taskforce, providing early or priority access to models for research and safety purposes, contributing to better evaluations and understanding of the opportunities and risks associated with these systems.

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