NEWS13 March 2019

‘I hate the rhetoric around AI taking people’s jobs’ says government’s AI champion

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UK – Nicky Morgan is guilty of perpetuating misconceptions about artificial intelligence, according to Tabitha Goldstaub, the government’s AI champion and chair of its AI Council.


Goldstaub, who is also the co-founder of CognitionX, was speaking at today’s Impact 2019 in a session called ‘Artificial Intelligence: Rising to the Commercial and Social Challenge’.

Reacting to a comment MP Nicky Morgan made in this morning's Impact 2019 keynote about her discomfort with excited talk of AI, Goldstaub said: "What she’s done is resigned herself and the audience to not having any agency over this, which is really dangerous.

“I hate the rhetoric around AI taking people’s jobs." Goldstaub felt that this kind of sentiment shut down debate and ultimately prevented people from influencing its development.

It was a point that resonated with Kate Adams, director of operations and special projects at Nesta. She said that at the time of the industrial revolution, people feared losing their livelihoods to the machines.

"You don't see it happen that way," Adams said. "Secondly, we share AI [and its development]— there’s this whole fantasy around machines being intelligent. They're not that intelligent, they get their intelligence from us programming them that way.”

Panellist Francesco D’Orazio, co-founder and chief executive of Pulsar, asserted that "AI is getting more specialised".

“From being a generic idea, what we are seeing is a lot more emphasis on developing AI-specific models tailored around specific domains."

Meanwhile, Stan Sthanunathan, executive vice-president, CMI at Unilever and co-author of AI for Marketing and Product Innovation, said he considered AI as more "augmented intelligence" than artificial intelligence that can "make machines do the work so that humans can think".

While the focus of the session was on the benefits of AI, the panel discussed its dangers and pitfalls, from privacy infringements to ethics.

"A quite well-known phrase now is ‘unintended consequences', said Adams. "We once thought sugar and tobacco were brilliant."