Posted on: 24th January 2024, by Magrathea
We’re all aware of the significant changes that will impact communications in the short and medium term but our team continually scan further ahead and consider how technology advancements might potentially impact us beyond those currently known. One of the areas which our TechOps team know we need to be cognisant of is of course Artificial Intelligence.
The evolution of AI will undoubtedly have a growing influence on all of our lives in ways we are yet to imagine, good and bad. Only last week the government launched a review into the pornography industry with a heavy focus on how AI and virtual reality will impact that sector and the resulting risks and challenges it could bring about – further evidence that it really does have the potential to have extensive reach!
We asked David, one of our great TechOps team, to share his thoughts on the current attempts by our government to get to grips with this technology:
“In November 2023 Rishi Sunak hosted the world’s first 2-day AI Safety Summit at Bletchley Park. 150 people attended, with delegates from nearly 30 governments as well as companies developing frontier AI; including OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, Elon Musk and many heads of top Artificial Intelligence companies. The discussions were focussed on the importance of coming together to establish a shared understanding of both opportunities and risks posed by AI. The Chair’s summary can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/ai-safety-summit-2023-chairs-statement-2-november/chairs-summary-of-the-ai-safety-summit-2023-bletchley-park
From reading the statement it’s clear that there is at least a willingness to face the challenges ahead in developing an inclusive international response to frontier AI which proportionately protects individuals, businesses and countries from the potential for bad actors, whilst ensuring positive potential isn’t lost or inhibited by unhelpful intervention. No clear actions are outlined at this stage but there is some momentum here, with further summits planned in the Republic of Korea, as a virtual meeting in the summer of 2024, and another in person again in Paris in late 2024. The UK have taken a lead and just before the summit they launched the new AI Safety Institute, which can act as a hub for international collaboration. It appears this step has been widely received as positive by businesses and governments alike from around the world but it’s very early days and with a general election looming we watch with interest to see if this is carried forward. More details can be found here:
In the meantime, whether the powers that be have a response or not, the fact remains that frontier AI is happening now and we all have a responsibility to, as the government put it, seize the benefits whilst addressing the risks.
One of the key areas that will be subject to further debate is the availability of open source solutions. Controversially there are calls for a ban in order to protect against misuse whether intentional or not and allow for greater regulation and governance.
OpenAI released ChatGPT in November 2022 and since then we’ve seen and heard so much about the powerful capabilities of AI systems and where they can take us in the future. Earlier in December 2023 Elon Musk also released his own AI platform called Grok, he explained in a podcast that it is a “cheeky” tool that is modelled on Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – let’s hope it comes with a big Don’t Panic button! Tools such as these widen awareness of the capabilities to a wide audience and, like all good open source software, can spark some remarkably innovative and worthwhile applications. As a result, I feel that the idea that open source may be threatened is not the best outcome.”
Musk’s HG2G adoption obviously resonates with us here at Magrathea as does the potency of open source solutions. As with many modern communication providers, we and our clients have utilised opensource software significantly over the years, and the ability to share learnings, reduce costs and create truly innovative solutions is what has led to the sophisticated communications tools we have available today.
However, of course we can’t ignore the considerable risks that the government are clearly striving to mitigate. The launch of the National AI Strategy set out a clear 10-year plan to become a “Global AI Superpower” and so there is a real balancing act to be done here. With super power comes super responsibility which is reflected in the UK’s creation of the AI Safety Institute that David mentioned. By leading the charge on this and inviting other countries to use this Institute for their testing we have firmly planted a stake in the ground that we want to play a big part in getting this right and setting the standards.
We suspect that the desire to innovate and introduce life enhancing tools will overcome the fear to a great extent but a common set of standards, a very clear expectation of testing and measures combined with sufficient regulation and powers to step in when things aren’t working well are sensible objectives and ones we will welcome.
More specifically considering the impact on telecommunications, we know AI is already being used to improve customer experience, enhance security and monitoring of networks and analyse data. There is still much more in the pipeline and it is no secret that we, and other networks, have had concerns on occasion about the powers our regulator are prepared to flaunt when faced with poor behaviour, so now really is the time for them to get their house in order in readiness for a changing landscape.
Reassuringly, Ofcom have recently triggered an investigation into cloud providers and the potential impact of these tech giants on our industry and we hope this will be followed by further work to assess the evolving landscape of communications more generally with proper consideration for the various strands of the value chain come together to provide critical infrastructure.
Only by getting to grips with this now do we stand a chance of proper governance and a fair playing field as we move ahead to embrace all the exciting new opportunities technology will present us.
Thanks to David for his insight and given the rate of development in this area and the further summits planned for 2024, we will be revisiting this topic with him again very soon.