Are businesses truly ready for the groundbreaking innovations that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is bringing to the forefront? How can they harness the power of AI in the most effective and ethical way? This was the subject for a great discussion at the panel event organised by the Cheltenham Chamber of Commerce and moderated by Will Abbott.
With a show of hands most in the room agreed they were worried about AI for different reasons, be it the impact it could have on jobs or an increase in cybercrime.
On this point, Rob Stemp of Red Maple, commented that currently the ‘defenders’ are ahead of the criminals. Although AI has helped to improve the look of phishing emails in terms of formatting and spelling, Microsoft 365 and other defensive tools are also using AI to guard against them. Cyber criminals tend to work in silos and don’t have and the co-ordination that we have with corporate entities, academics and the government working together, or the available skills which Microsoft and Google possess.
Whilst AI is improving productivity, for example, when used to develop content for social media quicker, to source images for your website, or to write an article about a topic you may have limited knowledge about, it still needs to be reviewed by a human. An owner of a marketing agency pointed out that is often a challenge to achieve the right tone for your brand using a tool such as ChatGPT.
AI requires oversight which presents a challenge in that AI can write computer code in seconds, and it takes much longer for a human to check it! How do humans keep up with it? We need the capacity to have the oversight. We could have easily spent another hour debating what happens if content goes unchecked although there was a consensus that AI could become better at oversight than humans!
Emma Littlefair and Chris Farrell of Gloucestershire College shared their thoughts on how learners are using AI in their training but also how new skills are being developed to meet the changing needs of businesses, employers and employees. AI is both creating the problem and helping with the solution. Understanding what we want AI to do and where we think it may be dangerous, for example in developing complex systems such as Air Traffic Control programmes without human oversight, will be key.
When will humans trust autonomous vehicles? In theory these vehicles would be safer and there would be fewer road accidents as a result of multiple cameras angles and the sheer speed of data processing, the fact vehicles could talk to each other, and they aren’t distracted by the kids in the back. Who would be at fault in the event of a collision? The lawyer in the room said ultimately, it’s the person in the car, it’ll be their insurance company who settles the claim, but legislation is struggling to keep up with the speed of development of technology.
In the Finance sector, AI is helping to spot anomalies in data. Rob Case explained in the world of audit, you used to sample 10 transactions, whereas AI can check all transactions. With Making Tax Digital coming down the line, reporting figures to HMRC will be seamless and it’s much easier for HMRC to target taxpayers who aren’t paying what is owed. A comment was made about AI being used to create a fairer tax system rather than the politicians!
Sarah Cook of HR People Support believes it will generate more jobs, particularly with the development of the Cyber Park in Cheltenham. She advised employers to have open communication with staff, with training where relevant, encouraging their involvement and feedback. Data breaches are a potential risk so be careful not to put sensitive data into ChatGPT for example. Sarah used a calculator analogy, that you have got to know what to put into it.
Steven Murray of HCR Law is concerned by the overreliance on the accuracy of the outcomes produced by the likes of Chat GPT and suggested that a code of practice for AI is required in the UK, similar to that being developed in in the EU where it’s ok to use AI in some circumstances but not others for example prohibiting its use in medical diagnoses.
Overall, everyone felt excited by what is coming, albeit there is an expectancy that its development will be at a faster pace than previous transformations. Generally, people don’t like change – people were sceptical about the internet initially. Any big transformation brings with it an element of the unknown. However, we are uniquely human and have skills which AI can’t replace. We need to stop being scared and embrace AI but handle with care!