The world’s first AI Safety Summit took place last week on the 1 and 2 of November. The event saw 28 nations, technology experts, and leading tech companies gather in Bletchley Park, Milton Keynes, to discuss the impact, and potential threats of AI on the world.
Much was discussed during this event. But one attendee who garnered a lot of attention was the controversial business leader, and X (formerly Twitter) owner Elon Musk. Musk introduced his new chatbot AI platform Grok, whilst simultaneously hypothesising that the future of work in relationship to AI, he feels, is a world where “you can have a job if you want” but “no job is needed”.
It’s probably difficult to even imagine this kind of dystopian universe, where super computers are running the world and humans are able to relax and focus on ‘more important’ things. Yet, the fact that AI has often been described as the ‘most powerful’ piece of technology to ever exist, means that this reality is a possibility – but how possible is it?
Should we be scared?
Whether or not AI will automate and replace jobs is a question on every employer’s mind. But some leaders have challenged Musk’s perspective.
Former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, who is now the President of Global Affairs at Meta, criticised concerns around AI as “moral panic” that is akin to fear around video games in the 1980s.
“These predictions about what’s going to happen next, what’s going to happen just around the corner, often doesn’t quite turn out as those who are most steeped in it believe,” Clegg explained.
Despite this, much like Musk, other experts in the tech world are warning of AI’s potential perils, which includes mass job replacement, lack of data privacy, social manipulation, aiding bioweapons and AI-related fraud.
The British chief executive of Google’s AI department, Demis Hassabis, warned the world that artificial intelligence risks must be taken as seriously as climate change.
“We must take the risks of AI as seriously as other major global challenges, like climate change,” he said. “It took the international community too long to coordinate an effective global response to this, and we’re living with the consequences of that now. We can’t afford the same delay with AI,” Hassabis said.
Clearly, even amongst experts in the field, there is disagreement on the seriousness of potential risks surrounding the expansion of this technology.
Despite people understanding the benefits of this tech, interestingly the same people still warn of its consequences.
Whether or not Musk is accurate in his understanding that AI development will soon lead to a career being something someone chooses for the sake of fulfilment, much like a hobby, will need to be seen.
Chris Pedder, Chief Data Analyst at AI company OBRIZUM, says that past technological advancements have gotten a similar response as AI. However, governments need to do more in ensuring workforces are able to adapt effectively to these shifts. He comments: “Musk makes a bold claim. While possible, the timeline and impact remain uncertain. Past innovations like the mechanical loom, assembly line, and computer automation have sparked similarly anticipated changes which never fully materialised. The impact of AI is a concern that businesses and workers should consider seriously. However, his views should be weighed carefully rather than taken as inevitability.
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“Past technological revolutions have disrupted job markets, yet also created new roles and industries. AI will likely displace certain jobs, but new ones will arise that we cannot yet envision. The workforce must adapt dynamically, as it always has, through re-skilling and up-skilling. What matters most is that societies create conditions for lifelong learning, worker mobility, and skills development to enable people to remain economically and socially fulfilled. To navigate this transition, regulation and policy are crucial. Worker protections must be strengthened, including guaranteed income schemes that provide stability amid volatility. Civic institutions that provide community and identity beyond jobs will likely grow more vital.
“Assuming Musk is correct, rather than just mitigating risks, policy must proactively cultivate conditions for humans to flourish. If labour declines in economic importance, a vision for fulfilling lives beyond jobs is essential. We must implement guardrails to ensure it augments humanity rather than disrupts livelihoods. Rather than fatalism about mass unemployment, the prudent path is cautious optimism paired with proactive policies to smooth workforce transitions.”
In order to keep up with these advancements, it becomes the responsibility of employers to develop the skills of their workforce and enable their employees to best adapt to these changing tides.
Deborah Collier, president at Digital Skills Authority, says that there shouldn’t only be a focus on digital skills when upskilling in the face of technological advancements, there should also be an emphasis on upskilling human skills. She comments: "Industry has been requesting governance and regulations of AI for several years. Governments have been inextricably slow to respond, which I believe is due to a lack of competence in risk management, digital leadership and emerging technologies, alongside navigating world challenges. Perhaps Elon Musk, who has been involved with AI development for several years, decided to ride the crest of the conversational wave when releasing his AI chatbot."
“The manual and functional roles will continue to be taken over by robots and artificial intelligence, freeing up time for humans to focus on cognitive, analytical, monitoring, management, caring, communications, strategic and creative work. Digital skills should pair with human skills, not only in terms of human computer interaction, but in the way we continue to interface with each other.
“If the focus is not only on digital skills, but more vitally human skills and abilities, such as caring, customer service, psychology, creativity and innovation, our future can be bright. Human beings need to have purpose and value, so we need to understand the impact on psychology, and what that means for our own evolution. Ideally, we will become greater thinkers, moderators, managers and leaders. We'll become kinder and more philosophical, and our value will be derived from developing those attributes."
Clearly, there is some disagreement on what impact AI is likely to have on the world and our workforce. Many spectators feel governments need to do more to curb its potential negative impacts, whilst others compare the emergence of this tech with past inventions, saying that fear is largely unfounded. Even though it is an unsatisfying answer, there is no real way of knowing what the future holds in relation to this tech. But with many roles, such as delivery people and factory workers, already seeing their jobs become automated, we will soon have a better idea.