Chancellor Jeremy Hunt waved away concerns on rapid AI development at a Politico event in London on Wednesday, and insisted that the UK needs to step up in the global AI race.
Hunt stated that AI technology is essential to tackle the UK’s issues with growth, and dismissed the industry’s worries around risks and job losses that may come alongside widespread AI integration, stating that he “does not buy” that middle-class jobs could be in danger.
Recently, tech executives such as Google’s chief executive, Sundar Pichai, and Tesla’s Elon Musk have spoken about the dangers of AI development, calling for greater government involvement and regulatory control of the sector. Musk went as far to say that AI could lead to “civilisational destruction” if not used securely.
Hunt furthered: “Of course, there's the potential for this technology to be used in a bad way. And indeed, we need to be very mindful of that.”
Hunt’s ambitions for the UK include setting the nation up as the next technological hub for innovation in AI research. He claimed that unemployment has halved since the Tory party entered office in 2010 and that new technology has always been in the UK’s priorities.
“But I don't believe it's possible in the world we're in, where there are countries that don't share our values that are investing massively in AI, to opt out of this race. I think we have to win the race — and then be super smart about the way we regulate it so that it is a force for good, enhances the values that we all believe in."
The US and EU have been setting out bills to subsidise the production of chips to compete in the global supply chain, but Hunt indicated that the UK will not erect “protectionist barriers for all our critical technologies.”
Hunt recently deleted his own TikTok account due to concerns over its geolocation features, but said that his children still use the app. On the topic of ChatGPT, he asked the AI tool whether he is a good chancellor, to which it responded: "As a large language model, I don't have subjective opinions on everything. But Jeremy Hunt is not chancellor of the exchequer, that's Rishi Sunak."
Sridhar Iyengar, managing director of cloud suite Zoho Europe, commented: “It is positive to see the Chancellor championing AI and encouraging further development in this area as part of the UK’s tech surge. The nation should embrace the benefits AI can bring, offering itself as a useful business tool when used correctly by allowing tasks to be automated, business efficiency to improve and customer experience to be enhanced.”
He added: “During implementation, it is important that businesses approach AI in an ethical way, ensuring it is fed with unbiased training data, for example, in order to reap the true benefits this technology can provide customers, staff and businesses as a whole.”