A House of Lords committee has warned that the UK government needs to rebalance its position on artificial intelligence (AI) to consider the opportunities it offers, or the country could “miss out on the AI goldrush”.

The Lords Communications and Digital Committee report, focusing on AI and large language models (LLMs), said some of the “apocalyptic” warnings about the technology’s dangers were exaggerated.

LLMs in particular have become wildly popular over the past year with the success of OpenAI’s ChatGPT.

But much of the discussion around the technology has focused on risks ranging from potential job losses to an existential threat to humanity.

AI benefits

The UK hosted the world’s first AI Safety Summit in November 2023, which produced a global declaration on managing AI risks.

Committee chair Baroness Stowell of Beeston said the technology was likely to have a “profound” effect on society, comparable to the introduction of the internet.

“That makes it vital for the government to get its approach right and not miss out on opportunities — particularly not if this is out of caution for far-off and improbable risks,” she said.

She added that risks needed to be addressed in order to be able to take advantage of the opportunities, but that “we need to be proportionate and practical”.

‘Safe AI’

The government said the UK is “a clear leader” in AI research and development and that the government is already backing AI’s “boundless potential to improve lives” in areas such as healthcare, education and business growth with a “pro-innovation” approach.

“The future of AI is safe AI,” said a spokeperson for the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology. “It is only by addressing the risks of today and tomorrow that we can harness its incredible opportunities and attract even more of the jobs and investment that will come from this new wave of technology.”

Meanwhile Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey told the BBC on Friday that AI would not be a “mass destroyer of jobs” and that humans would learn to work with the machines, which present “great potential”.

“I’m an economic historian, before I became a central banker. Economies adapt, jobs adapt, and we learn to work with it,” Bailey said.

Job losses

“And I think, you get a better result by people with machines than with machines on their own. So I’m an optimist.”

Nearly one-third of businesses told the Bank they had made significant AI investments in the past year, with the Bank finding that automation and AI investment were already “containing recruitment and labour costs” in a tight labour market.

The Bank warned last week that overly high wages and labour costs were contributing to services inflation.

The International Monetary Fund said in January that AI could affect nearly 40 percent of jobs worldwide, rising to 60 percent in highly economically developed countries – with about half of those affected seeing benefits such as improved productivity.

For the other half AI could lower labour demand, leading to reduced wages and hiring or job losses in “extreme” cases, said IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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