Technology experts from Liberty Global, Microsoft and EY offered a different perspective on the potential dangers posed by AI, noting a lack of education about the technology could be as damaging as the potential to promote misinformation and deepfakes.

During a panel session hosted by the operator group last week, EY partner Harvey Lewis (pictured, right) expressed concern current education systems and institutions may not be keeping pace with AI development, potentially jeopardising a technology he and the other speakers agreed could be a powerful democratising force.

Lewis authored the event’s namesake Wired for AI report for EY and said the technology opens the door for “anyone in the world” to develop the “next big thing”. But he noted the education sector may not be “adapting fast enough” to it, echoing comments from Jed Griffiths, UK chief digital officer at Microsoft, who questioned whether the industry is doing enough around informing users of recent, rapid advances.

Griffiths (pictured, centre) said worries about whether the tech community is “doing the best we can to make sure people feel educated and comfortable” made him “a little nervous” and, while also arguing there is a need for some personal responsibility, said the industry must ensure it makes the right moves to put users at ease.

Liberty Global CTO Enrique Rodriguez (pictured, left) argued the technology will push people to adapt, learning how to spot misinformation and deepfakes which many are concerned will increase as AI advances.

Rodriguez drew a parallel to social media, noting it had also given rise to fakery and misinformation which people had learned to see through.

Humans “will have to learn how to interpret what we hear and see in different ways”, he said, though in the case of AI this will need to happen “in a more accelerated way”.

For all their concerns, the speakers were broadly positive about the potential of AI to unlock a surge of creativity across multiple sectors.

Rodriguez branded AI a “great intersection” between creativity and technology, while Griffiths noted the potential to enable people with accessibility challenges to employ computing, opening it up to “a whole new part of our workforce” and society.

“I think it’s going to be hugely transformative”.

Education, education, education
The internet is awash with studies and research into the emancipating impact of education, though Rodriguez suggested a high level of technical learning would remain important over the next couple of decades.

“AI has made it cool to be a geek”.

Griffiths argued the need for some clarity over what is meant by AI, explaining the technology had existed for a long time in the form of machine learning and automation.

A man in business attire stands beside a screen displaying a presentation about ai's impact on telecommunications at an ey seminar.

He noted generative AI seems to be the current watchword and, for this, softer skills are relevant.

“The kind of skills that you’re going to need are ones around cognitive thinking, critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, communication”.

“Yes there will be a technical component, but actually those softer skills become important, as well as the ability to think in a responsible and ethical way in how you deploy it.”

For Lewis, the key element lies in including the technology in current educational systems. He pointed to the potential to embed AI into arts and humanities studies, fields he believes the softer skills alluded to by Griffiths are most likely to be found, as “fundamentally important to getting the best out of the technology”.

Griffiths explained the natural language element of genAI could bring “very powerful computing to a whole new range, millions of people who previously didn’t have the accessibility, the skills” to employ the technology.

He pointed to app development as an example, stating people no longer require high-level university degrees because they can access genAI-assisted tools to help.

“Let’s not underestimate just how transformative that is.”

The Microsoft executive also believes there is little substitute for diving in and just using genAI products, albeit in a “safe and secure environment”.

A middle-aged man in a beige blazer and blue shirt, with a pocket square, seated and looking off to the side.

“If you’ve never worked with genAI or co-reasoning…it’s not necessarily something you can train someone to do, it’s a very experiential thing”.

He described using the technology in everyday tasks as a muscle “that people are going to have to develop in the workplace”, making adoption “very much a socio-technical issue”.

Lewis explained awareness, adaptability and autonomy are three areas to be considered in terms of the impact on companies and organisations. “How can we ensure that our workers and our workforce as a whole is able to adapt to using this technology and how do we make sure that our organisations aren’t going to slow that down and get in the way?”

Lewis explained his research into AI showed the telecoms industry is among those with the greatest potential to employ, but also be impacted by, the technology.

Research conducted in the US, UK, European Union and Switzerland found 71 per cent of jobs in the telecom industry could benefit by being augmented by AI, compared with an average of 43 per cent across all sectors.

Along with obvious roles involving network management and customer service, EY’s study found HR and finance departments could also reap gains.

Lewis explained the impact goes further, with the research finding AI could augment around 50 per cent of all jobs in the territories studied.

“This doesn’t mean that these roles can be automated, what it means is we found across those jobs, at least half of their tasks could be supported in some way by the use of AI.”

The expert noted what EY did not find is equally important. It did not find “any role where AI could automate at least half of the tasks”, which Lewis said indicated “a human led approach is where you will see most of the benefits of AI in enhancing efficiency of tasks”, rather than replacing the people.

He caveated this by noting the figures do not mean “roles and occupations won’t change, because inevitably they will”.

“But it does mean that AI is a very, very useful tool”.

A man sitting in a chair, gesturing with his hands while speaking, in a room with a modern white waveform wall design in the background. he wears a beige sweater.

Rodriguez offered a real-world perspective, noting Liberty Global did not start by setting a “$200 million budget” to spend on “fancy stuff”.

“We think that we’re going to deploy at scale as we encounter these places where we can get significant benefits”.

Nevertheless, some investment by the industry as whole is required. For Microsoft, this covers funding to ensure data security and privacy alongside what Griffiths said was “a significant investment to bring 1 million people in the UK the skills required to get the most from AI”.

Griffiths explained “data is the fuel for AI”, noting without accurate information, people will not “get most of the benefit” from deploying the technology.