Incoming BSA president Jim Al-Khalili has warned that fears over AI could end up facilitating the worst possibilities of the technology to come to fruition. Professor Al-Khalili previewed his address for this year’s British Science Festival by highlighting the dangers of fast-moving, unchecked innovation, absent appropriate regulation.

In what feels like a new observation, the eminent scientist and TV personality suggested that public fears over AI could cause politicians to avoid dealing with the topic and actually prevent that much needed oversight from coming to pass. Thus, we’ll end up concentrating the power and innovation of AI in the hands of a few unchecked mega corporations. Perhaps the thing we must fear most is fear itself!

Al-Khalili’s remarks underscore the need for cautious optimism in communications from the technology industry, academics and government. The public needs to be engaged about the inevitability of AI innovation and aware of the many positive changes it will usher in, while at the same time reassured that the correct steps to control potential dangers are being put in place. It’s hard to see that they will feel that way now.

Disappointingly, Professor Al-Khalili’s thoughtful and nuanced remarks were victim to some pretty misleading headline characterisations. Something that also happened to the Prince of Wales as he waded into the AI debate in an interview with GQ magazine. The Prince’s remarks, reported with a dystopian slant in the Sun but more accurately here in the Mail, temper fear with hope and hint at the opportunity for us to live more creative lives. His remarks are better read than the headlines reporting them:

“The thing I find hardest now is to cope with this extraordinary trend that somehow we must become part human, part machine, which I totally and utterly object to. It is crazy to go that far because I think, ironically, the more AI and robotics they want to introduce, the more people will rediscover the importance of the traditional crafts, the directly human things that are crafted by humans and not by machines.” – The Prince of Wales

News in Brief:

Around Whitehall:

As part of the UK-Canada AI Innovation Challenge, the Department for International Trade and BEIS are challenging startups to investigate improving aircraft performance and sustainability using artificial intelligence. The prize on offer is the opportunity to develop these ideas in partnership with Canadian aerospace giant Bombardier.

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