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AI Summit needs to address ‘here and now’ threats, TUC says

The summit will be held at Bletchley Park with attendees including Elon Musk and Kamala Harris -

Rishi Sunak has promised the AI Summit (1-2 November) at Bletchley Park will address future threats from AI, but workers' rights organisations have called the event a missed opportunity to face current dangers of AI in the workplace.

Over 100 organisations signed a letter, including the TUC, Amnesty International and AI experts from the AI Council, Alan Turing Institute and British Computing Society warning the event is dominated by "big tech" and overly focused on speculative risks. 

Read more: Cover story: AI risks and hazards

It said: “As it stands, the summit is a closed-door event, overly focused on speculation about the remote ‘existential risks’ of ‘frontier' AI systems – systems built by the very same corporations who now seek to shape the rules.

“For many millions of people in the UK and across the world, the risks and harms of AI are not distant – they are felt in the here and now.

“This is about being fired from your job by algorithm, or unfairly profiled for a loan based on your identity or postcode. People are being subject to authoritarian biometric surveillance, or to discredited predictive policing. 

“Small businesses and artists are being squeezed out, and innovation smothered as a handful of big tech companies capture even more power and influence.”

In a speech last week (26 October), Sunak said AI will have broadly positive effects on the workforce and should be considered a "co-pilot" rather than a risk to jobs.

“As with all technologies, they change our labour market, I think over time, of course, they make our economy more prosperous, more productive,” he said.

Read more: Rishi Sunak says AI is a ‘co-pilot’ rather than risk to jobs

The government also announced  a £118 million boost to AI skills funding. This includes 12 Centres for Doctoral Training in AI and a new visa scheme will make it easier for the most innovative businesses to bring AI researchers in their early careers to the UK.

Tom Hedges, senior trends analyst at research company GWI, said employers should also address the appetite for AI training in order to ensure workers' skills remain up to date.

He told HR magazine: “The perceived threat of an AI takeover is front of mind for employees and organisations. It’s key for businesses to be mindful of their employees’ feelings and potential fears.

“However, they must also appreciate the demand from employees for training in AI, and to equip them with the skills and confidence to get the most out of the technology. In this way, AI can have a positive outcome for the workforce”.