Barbeques – AI and the Great British Summer

With only a hint of sunshine, in Britain we normally get very excited, breaking out the shorts, T-shirts and start dreaming of barbecues.

But, this weekend the flag was really raised, an Amber alert… this is it… the once-a-year event… the one we, like Christmas, we have been planning for… yes a summer’s day, and at the weekend.

Panic has ensued with emergency trips to the supermarkets to find burgers and charcoal, calls to and from friends inviting each other over, and of course putting wine in the freezer just to try to get it ready in time.

… and now, having stuffed myself on too many hot dogs, burnt burgers and marshmallows, I am sitting feeling rather full, reflecting on the week that was.

The White Heat of Technology

The narrative around AI continued to rumble on this week. AI is clearly no longer confined to the realms of science labs of Silicon Valley, it has stepped into the public consciousness. This is especially with concerns around security and if additional regulatory oversight is required – a new sense of fear sprang up last week.

It, of course, was also not helped, by several of the largest tech companies, who also echoed this sentiment… although you have to wonder how much this is motivated by a need to slow down development, just so they can catch up competitively... although maybe I am just being a little jaded here.

A Rational Approach

There’s no denying that some concerns around AI are valid. It’s a powerful tool with potential implications for privacy, job security, with ethical considerations. However, treating AI as an uncontrollable force that will bring down society also has dangers.

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This, for example, could easily lead to political overreaction, resulting in over-constraint. This simply could hinder development and potentially move elements to the shadows, where they do not need to comply.

Or, maybe the service will be simply restricted, or banned for use in some businesses or situations. This could remove the potential for finding use cases before they even got started. (for example in medical use and the understanding of complex biological systems).

It feels like a measured, sensible, approach is needed.

The New Recruit

As presented today AI is a tool for business, a helper. I kind of think of it like a recent recruit in a firm.

This recruit shows tremendous promise but lacks the full range of skills and experience to be trusted with the company’s most sensitive tasks.

Just like we wouldn’t pull a random person off the street and give them free rein to negotiate critical business deals, approve loans or handle customers in sensitive situations, nor should we with AI.

Just like the recruit, there is a need for expert training, guidelines, segregation of duties, oversight and safeguards. Why should we treat AI any differently?

The key to control here is, not constraining the technical detail, but as Paul Sweeney, from Webio, explained in my interview recording this week, it comes down to good policy and governance. I agree with him.

The Summer of AI

While this summer may come and go, leaving us with nothing more than a few extra freckles and pounds heavier from all the eating. It does seem like AI is here to stay, and how we choose to embrace it will shape our future.

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So before we throw it on the proverbial barbecue, we need a bit of caution, a touch of understanding, not to mention good governance to ensure we maximise this opportunity and minimize risk.

To not do so, to panic, could lead to overreaction, unintended consequences and just like the British summer the optimism of AI will be over before it has started….

Have a good week everyone.

…PS it is Sunday and now it is raining… Summer was good while it lasted!

Headlines of the week

  • Consumer Behavior Shifts Amid COVID-19: Reduced supermarket visits, increased own-label purchases, and loyalty scheme reliance have reshaped consumer habits.
  • Personalization Becomes Crucial: The pandemic prompted three-quarters of customers to switch stores, products, and buying methods.
  • Europe Witnesses Decline in Card Fraud: Reported cases of card fraud in 2023 show a significant decrease compared to 2019.
  • Physical Channels Still Preferred: Despite digital banking trends, one in three UK customers favors in-person banking experiences.
  • Food Prices Surge Despite Energy Relief: Food prices rise by 19% in April, contributing to inflation despite reduced energy costs.
  • UK Businesses Prioritize Cost Cutting: Over 60% of businesses shift focus from growth to cost-cutting strategies due to inflation and interest rates.
  • Fuel Poverty Persists in the UK: Approximately 6.6 million households remain trapped in fuel poverty despite some respite from high energy prices.
  • Digital Prepaid Cards Expected to Surge: The usage of digitally issued prepaid cards is predicted to increase globally by 2028.
  • Lack of Awareness for Financial Support: Only 30% of customers are aware of available financial assistance from water companies.
  • UK Homes Have Small Average Size: The UK has one of the smallest average property sizes globally, with homes measuring 818 square feet on average.
  • Financial Education Gap in Children: Experts call for increased emphasis on developing financial skills in children, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
  • Mortgage Rates Rise, Deals Pulled: Banks withdraw hundreds of home loan deals as fixed mortgage rates increase.
  • Transparency for AI-Generated Content: EU commissioner proposes labeling AI-generated content to enhance transparency and accountability.
  • Revolut Surpasses 30 Million Customers: Revolut, the global financial super app, reaches over 30 million retail customers and processes 400 million monthly transactions.
  • Limited Awareness of Water Company Support: Only 30% of customers are aware of the financial assistance options available from water companies.
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