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Tony Blair warns we must 'prepare' for artificial intelligence


tony blair
Tony Blair, former UK prime minister

It seems that everyone has an opinion on artificial intelligence these days, including the UK’s former prime minister.

Tony Blair has warned that we’re not yet ready for what he calls “another industrial revolution”.

Writing in the Spectator, the politician – best known for his leading role in the UK’s 2003 invasion of Iraq – outed his concerns over coming technological changes, like the advent of artificial intelligence.

The pace of change is not slowing; it is accelerating,” explains Blair.

The former PM continues: “The next generation of technological advance – big data, possibly in time AI – will be akin to yet another industrial revolution except that this time it will affect the service sector too.”

Blair says we’re “in danger of not asking the right questions”, and argued for making “more radical” decisions in future governance.

“We have to understand it and prepare for it. Infrastructure, housing, social exclusion – all these challenges require more modernising and less ideological thinking,” he writes, in an article titled ‘In defence of Blairism’.

The Labour politician isn’t the first to warn about humanity’s lack of preparation for artificial intelligence.

A number of prominent technologists have spoken out about development in the sector, including Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, and Elon Musk.

The latter even donated $10 million to the Future of Life Institute, a company that hopes to “mitigate existential risks facing humanity”, such as aggressive AI.

Related: 9 predictions from a professional tech futurist

Musk also signed an open letter that called for a ban on “offensive autonomous weapons”, warning against a “third revolution in warfare”.

Blair’s concerns, however, may not sit too well with his critics – many see the former PM as a warmonger thanks to his aggressive military record in the Middle East.

Do you think we’ve done enough to prepare for artificial intelligence? Let us know in the comments.


December 9, 2015, 1:50 pm

No doubt Blair has experience in this field. He is an expert in handing out artificial truth to start illegal wars and bring misery and death to millions.

mark choletti

December 9, 2015, 4:29 pm

With the industrial revolution, you had the spawning of the Luddites. It goes without saying that the techno-luddites will evolve in the future and may be a force to be reckoned with. In other words, I can see a time when some techie-loons themselves will rebel against all the changes and people will ponder the questions: what does it truly mean to be human and does all this technology really benefit humanity.


December 9, 2015, 5:34 pm

Tony bliar, we need humanity not AI. I'm sure you need some more than others.

Brad Arnold

December 10, 2015, 6:42 am

Frankly, I am not sure hardly anyone really understands what is about to happen. I am a Singulartarian, meaning I believe that artificial intelligence will become smarter than humans about mid-century leading to an almost unimaginable rate of technological improvement as machines grasp new ideas faster than a human mind can. In other words, what Blair is saying is watered down.

Briefly, half of the technological improvement that happened in the 20th century occurred in the last 20 years (1980-00). Another 20th century worth of technological improvement occurred in the last 15 years (2000-15). In the next 8 years we expect another 20th century worth of improvement. This is an exponential rate of improvement.

BTW, to make sense of this you need to understand the Singularity Feedback Loop, where our intelligence creates technology, and that technology improves our intelligence. Our new technology is fueling our increased rate of technological improvement!

mark choletti

December 10, 2015, 10:28 am

What is it all for though? Physical life is for experiencing this denser form of matter, whether through action and emotion, and the learning (or not) of moral lessons, etc. Physical life is going to lose a lot of its flavour if automatons and machines are running the show in future and everything becomes dull and utilitarian in nature.

Technology will probably peak in the coming years, mostly due to economic events, and the singularity event you talk about will be booted forwards into the mists of time until another civilisation rises again and the technologists during that future time have another go at raising techno-heaven (in their eyes).


December 16, 2015, 1:00 pm

How do you define "technological improvement" for the purpose of your supposed logarithmic progression? How do you measure the relative significance of, say, the invention of the transistor vs the GPS system vs PageRank vs IBM's Watson? They're just so different. The common thread is that the last 3 all rely inextricably on the first.

Note I'm not disputing that the pace of technological advancement is accelerating, nor that a Singularity may arise (though I am skeptical about your timeline); I'm just asking how you can justify a quantitative statement such as "another 20th century worth of technological improvement occurred in the last 15 years"?

Brad Arnold

December 16, 2015, 9:06 pm

I agree that it is problematic both quantitatively and qualitatively. I is an apples and oranges sort of thing (using your example of the invention of the transistor vs the GPS system vs PageRank vs IBM's Watson - how could you possible rank and weigh them compared to one another?). Instead, I am simply using the words of smarter people than me, and furthermore am speaking in generalities.

The important point is simply that technological progress is exponential, not linear. I wouldn't get lost in the minutia, because it gets really complicated really quickly. I suppose you are making an argument that it isn't exponential, and that by me saying not to get lost in the minutia, I am begging the question.

If you want a full explanation that supports what I am briefly claiming, read the book (or listen to the audio book) The Singularity is Near by Ray Kurzweil. BTW, I admire you for questioning the exponential claim - keep on questioning this!

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