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Mark Nicholas gives us his thoughts after attending the AI Summit London 2023

The last two days, I attended the AI Summit in London, this was a large gathering of experts, and business leaders focused on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.

There were a host of discussions around the future of generative AI (like ChatGPT), best practices, ethical and diversity implications, media and music, as well as key vendor showcases and demonstrations of this impressive technology.

I attended lots of these sessions, starting with a panel discussion around which industries have realised the biggest benefit from AI. I also had the honour of chairing the MLOps Best Practice for Operational Excellence along with some real experts in this field. There were some common themes running throughout the day. Firstly, this is a highly disruptive technology, the kind of advancement that I have seen a few times in the past 30 years of working in this industry, like email, the internet, smartphones, etc., but this is going to be bigger and harder hitting than anything we have seen so far.

The pace of advancement in machine learning is astounding. It has been around for years, you already use it, and many of the apps on your phone operate because of it (even if you are not aware of it), but the abilities are getting more and more capable. Creating music, video, and text from a few keywords is just the start.

Models are being developed daily, enabling machines to do more and more activities that humans have spent years learning and developing. Still, now you can have the result in seconds with little or no experience of the subject or medium that you want the outcome. This is wonderful, inspiring and frightening, all in equal measure.

There are lots of horror stories in the press about machines taking over the world and wiping out humans. I don’t subscribe to this view. However, just about everyone will be impacted by AI, some to their benefit, some to their detriment. Everyone I met and listened to believes that they want to develop AI to improve our world, address climate change, provide opportunities more equally, and address food security and other key issues for our planet while also making a profit and a livelihood for millions of people. This is a great aspiration, and I hope and believe that it will come true in many ways. However, there is also an acknowledgement that the genie is out of the bottle. Something bad can also be produced for every good thing you can do with AI. This could be anything from developing malicious code for hackers or rouge states to developing weapons.

There is also the debate about AI having all the bias of the previously male-dominated world it was reared in. Ensuring this and other bias is not built into AI solutions is acknowledged and needs to be addressed.

Then of course, the fear that AI will replace humans in terms of jobs, this is a real issue.

I strongly believe that AI can help us all perform our jobs more effectively than without it, whatever we do. It can enable us to make better decisions more quickly with the best answer. Indeed organisations that don’t adopt AI quickly enough will find themselves at a big disadvantage, and this gap will only accelerate over the coming months and years.

But in some cases, organisations will see AI as an opportunity to remove people. This creates a need to re-educate and re-purpose a very large amount of the workforce to understand AI and be able to use it, train it or develop it. These are the key roles that will be needed in the future, and my view is that every job centre should have provision for providing these new skills. Schools and youth clubs also are places where these new skills should be incorporated into their curriculum or activities, as it will be critical to our young people’s future, as other more traditional jobs will simply disappear.

In summary, AI is here to stay and will move at an ever-increasing pace. We must put the controls and legislation in place to harness the good and limit the bad, but it’s already too late to limit it completely.

This is the new industrial revolution, everyone in the workplace and education needs to address it, and a plan must be in place to retrain large amounts of displaced people.

If we don’t take these steps, more wealth will be concentrated in the super-rich, while more and more people will be pushed down into poverty in wealth and technology terms.

AI is a force for good and for bad.

Read Mark’s post on LinkedIn