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Business & Economy

Opinion: Artificial intelligence: will it make us all redundant?

From BT planning to replace a third of 55,000 jobs with computer systems to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s advisor Mark Clifford warning it could be potent enough to create weapons and “kill many humans” within two years, artificial intelligence is never long out of the headlines. But are the dangers really so grave? Here, Mark Harrison, scale-up partner at RTC North, looks at the more positive aspects of simulating human intelligence and why, despite much forecasting to the contrary, people will always hold the power.


Artificial intelligence.

How do we control it? Will it take all our jobs? Will it destroy the atmosphere to rid itself of troublesome humans?

We certainly have to keep a close eye on the effects of something programmed to grow so explosively.

Artificial intelligence only came into the public consciousness in November last year, yet its headline-grabbing status means it is given equal, and many times higher, billing than the Ukrainian war and cost of living crisis. 

Earlier this year, Sam Altman, chief executive at OpenAI, addressed the US Senate amid fears from the latter over unregulated artificial intelligence tearing out of control and destroying our lives.

And therein lies a crucial issue.

There is too little time being spent thinking about the possible benefits of artificial intelligence, such as the acceleration of research around cancers and Alzheimer’s disease it could help yield.

If we pull the handbrake and heavily regulate artificial intelligence, you can guarantee the Russians, Chinese, North Koreans and various other states won’t. 

We have to go with it and use it where we feel it benefits the greater good. 

Progress, however quick, has happened before, and we came out it in a better place.

I grew up in the North East in the 1970s when the mines, steelworks and shipyards were closing down. 

It was a hard time, and many of my generation were left behind and didn’t recover. 

I chose to leave and seek experience elsewhere, and when I returned ten years ago, the region had been transformed beyond all recognition. 

This cycle of decline and renewal of economies has always happened.

Artificial intelligence will only make us all obsolete if we let it.

The development of artificial intelligence and the powerful machine learning models that drive it has limitations; the available processing power and the available electricity to drive the servers it resides on provides an initial buffer to any ‘rise of the machines’.

We humans will always have control.

Much as the fictional, all powerful, humanity exterminating Daleks could be defeated by the humble staircase, if artificial intelligence spins out of control, we have the means to stop it. 

Every server needs a humble kettle lead to keep it running, and if things go wrong we can simply pull the plug, which would lead to some kind of lame version of a classic Schwarzenegger flick.

A bigger threat to humanity, in my opinion, is social media and the havoc it continues to wreak on the fabric of society. 

It needs regulating, though is probably already at a point where we should shut it down. 

The collective sigh of relief heard around the world from doing so would be deafening.