He might be the president of global affairs for Meta, but Sir Nick Clegg is unimpressed with the tech giant’s AI systems. The former Liberal Dem leader and deputy prime minister went so far as to call Meta’s AI systems ‘quite stupid’.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme recently, Cleggy said: ‘My view is that the hype has somewhat run ahead of the technology. I think a lot of the existential warnings relate to models that don’t currently exist, so-called super-intelligent, super-powerful AI models – the vision where AI develops an autonomy and agency on its own, where it can think for itself and reproduce itself. The models that we’re open-sourcing are far, far, far short of that. In fact, in many ways they’re quite stupid.’

It comes as Meta said that it was opening access to its new large language model, Llama 2, which will be free for research and commercial use.

Generative AI tools such as ChatGPT have become widely used in the public domain in the last year.

Clegg said a claim by Dame Wendy Hall, co-chair of the Government’s AI Review, that Meta’s model was akin to ‘giving people a template to build a nuclear bomb’ was ‘complete hyperbole’. 

While the Cleggster thinks concerns about AI are exaggerated, not everyone is quite so intensely relaxed.

Back in May, some of the biggest names in technology joined forces to warn that AI could spell the end of humanity. Signatories included dozens of academics, senior bosses at companies including Google DeepMind, the co-founder of Skype, and Sam Altman, chief executive of ChatGPT-maker OpenAI. Another signatory was Geoffrey Hinton, the ‘Godfather of AI’, who recently resigned from his job at Google, saying that ‘bad actors’ will use new AI technologies to harm others and that the tools he helped to create could spell the end of humanity.

Even if AI doesn’t end us, it might very well disrupt our lives. 

A government white paper said employers expect 23 per cent of jobs to change by 2027, with 69 million new jobs created and 83 million eliminated. And a recent poll from recruiter Randstad UK found that three in every five workers want the government to ban artificial intelligence from the workplace — when asked if they were worried about their job being replaced by AI, 46 per cent said they were. 

How can employers prepare for this? What should HR’s be considering? Randstad CEO Victoria Short suggests digital apprenticeships. “We have 20 years of data showing consistent demand from employees for digital training and reskilling — 89% of workers are interested in learning and development opportunities,” she says. “So offering digital training aligns with the interests of the workforce and business.” 

I don’t know if the stars do align closely enough though. Is your CEO going to invest in retraining a £45000 a year middle manager, employed for expensive skills that are rapidly becoming irrelevant, to do the job of a freshly-qualified (AKA: cheap) digital apprentice? I think they’ll find themselves right sized quite quickly if those were the options.  Far better, surely, just to let people know about the latest developments in AI and it’s new capabilities on a monthly or quarterly basis.  That, at the very least, should keep HR teams in work for some time.

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