Jeremy Hunt has said he doesn’t “buy” the idea that the rapid advance of artificial intelligence will lead to employees being replaced by tech as he hailed the “transformative” technology.
Speaking at a Politico Live event, the chancellor warned Britain can’t “opt out” of the race on artificial intelligence (AI) and said the technology would be crucial to combatting the economic “productivity and growth challenge” facing the UK.
The country’s chief finance minister said he didn’t think “we’ve got our head around how transformative (AI) is actually going to be”, but added “it’s still got a long way to go”.
He revealed he asked ChatGPT whether he is a good chancellor. The chatbot replied that prime minister Rishi Sunak was chancellor, and when he tried to correct it, it replied: “I’m so sorry about making that mistake but I can reassure you Rishi Sunak is chancellor of the exchequer.”
Asked about concerns about middle-class jobs being in the “firing line” as a result of AI’s rapid advance, Hunt said: “I just don’t buy that.
“Look what’s happened to unemployment since we’ve been in office in 2010. It’s halved. And it’s halved in a period where every time there’s been a new technology, we’ve leaned right into it. We haven’t tried to protect legacy models.
“In fact, the UK is very well known for going full steam ahead for every new technology there is.”
He added that that “jobs are going to change – but as jobs change we’ve got to rethink our approach to skills”, as he highlighted how the “maths to 18″ policy and ensuring people leave school with basic skills were vital to the shift
“All those Uber drivers are going to have to find different jobs when we move to driverless cars,” he said.
Last month, Elon Musk and a group of artificial intelligence experts called for a six-month pause in developing systems more powerful than OpenAI’s newly launched GPT-4.
Microsoft-backed OpenAI had just unveiled the fourth iteration of its programme, which wowed users by engaging them in human-like conversations, composing songs and summarising lengthy documents.
Hunt said there is potential for “this technology to be used in a bad way”, but added: “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, and enhances the values that we all believe in.
“I truly believe that AI can be the answer to our productivity and growth challenge that all advanced economies are facing.”