AI sounded to many like a slightly sinister rumour and swiftly became an unquestionable reality. From the outset, we were assured it would improve our lives. But isn’t that precisely what was said about the computer and the mobile phone: that they would make life better, easier and give us more time to spend with family and friends because we could relax and let the machines do the work? And what happened? For many, when we’re not at work staring at our computer screen, we’re spending that hoped-for “friends and family time” with our eyes fixed firmly on our phones, often with earphones plugged in, locked into an even smaller, more isolated world. We’re either still working or, more infuriatingly, absorbing often unnecessary information. We’re addicted, and when called out we answer with something like, “Yeah, you’re absolutely right, I must spend less time looking at my phone. But I was just checking…”. Ten minutes later, struggling to resist picking up the phone again, we don’t even remember what we were checking before.
AI will undoubtedly do wonderful things: it already is. The NHS is currently using AI to assist doctors in reading scans and X-rays, in some cases of suspected cancer. It will continue to do much more, in almost every area of life, from smart homes to self-drive cars. But there are dangers – there are AI addicts out there too. Why else would anyone spend multiple hours creating a perfect AI version of actor Morgan Freeman, then post it on social media to tell us: “I am not Morgan Freeman”? More dangerously, another AI addict created a fake Tom Hanks to make a bogus advertisement, while a further AI forger made perfect audio clips of Labour leader Keir Starmer saying he “hated” Liverpool, the city hosting the party’s conference. An AI-created social media influencer named Milla Sofia is swiftly gaining tens of thousands of devoted followers – but doesn’t exist! Should we be worried? At the May G7 summit, leaders determined to find a way to regulate AI, while the UK government hosted its own AI safety summit earlier this month. But will we act before AI decides it no longer needs us? I