Unions claim workers sidelined in UK’s AI safety talks

Trade unions and human rights groups have accused the UK government of marginalizing workers in the artificial intelligence (AI) safety summit scheduled for this week. In an open letter sent to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Monday, over 100 organizations claimed the government is giving Big Tech too much influence over AI policy while ignoring those most affected by the technology.

According to an Oct. 30 Financial Times report, the summit will be hosted by the UK government at Bletchley Park. It will bring together political leaders, tech executives, and some civil society members to discuss risks associated with advanced AI systems. However, major workers’ unions like the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and the International Trade Union Confederation argue workers have been “squeezed out” of the talks.

“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,” the letter states. Groups estimate two-thirds of jobs could be impacted by AI, with the technology able to automate 25% to 50% of some occupations.

The Trade Union Congress says that AI has already been influencing all the hiring and firing decisions

The TUC says AI is already influencing hiring and firing decisions in the workforce. “It shouldn’t just be tech bros and politicians who get to shape the future of AI,” said TUC’s assistant general secretary Kate Bell. The letter accuses the government’s guest list of favoring Big Tech companies while excluding small businesses, artists, and communities most exposed to AI-related issues.

Signatories include major unions in technology-vulnerable industries like education and journalism. They criticize the summit’s focus on speculative “existential risks” of advanced AI rather than current problems like algorithmic bias and facial recognition abuses. “Those are the things that we should be addressing,” said Jeni Tennison, executive director of the Connected By Data campaign group.

The UK government defended the summit’s aims and guest list. A spokesperson said it “builds on several engagements” to ensure diverse views inform the summit discussions. The talks will address the risks of highly advanced AI models specifically. Broader AI policy issues are being examined through international forums like the G20 and OECD.

UK’s AI safety talks begin Wednesday

The summit begins Wednesday and will cover potential risks like AI-assisted bioweapons and cyber attacks. But workers argue their voices are being ignored in a debate that could significantly impact their livelihoods. Without proper representation, they say Big Tech and politicians will dictate AI’s future role without considering its current harm.

Featured Image Credit: Lina Kivaka; Pexels; Thank you!

Radek Zielinski

Radek Zielinski is an experienced technology and financial journalist with a passion for cybersecurity and futurology.

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