That’s the warning from Professor Jim Al-Khalili, incoming president of the British Science Association, who fears the public will turn against artificial intelligence.
Speaking at a briefing in London before the British Science Festival in Hull, Al-Khalili said: ‘Until maybe a couple of years ago had I been asked what is the most pressing and important conversation we should be having about our future, I might have said climate change or one of the other big challenges facing humanity, such as terrorism, antimicrobial resistance, the threat of pandemics or world poverty.
“But today I am certain the most important conversation we should be having is about the future of AI. It will dominate what happens with all of these other issues for better or for worse.’
The physicists also warned that the full potential of AI may not be realised without greater transparency and public engagement. In the absence of concerted action by academics, the Government and industry, the rapidly advancing technology could end up ‘uncontrolled and unregulated’ in the hands of a few supremely powerful companies, he said. Previewing his presidential address at this year’s British Science Festival in Hull, which begins next week, Prof Al-Khalili spoke of the dream and dangers of AI. He pointed out that the UK was at the forefront of the technology, which is predicted to contribute up to 15 trillion US dollars (£11.7 trillion) to the global economy by 2030. But there was a risk of AI going the same way as GM (genetic modification) and being seen as frightening and sinister by members of the public and a “poison chalice’ by politicians. Professor Al-Khalili said: ‘There’s a real danger of a public backlash against AI potentially similar to the one we had with GM back in the early days of the millennium.