“The problem with OpenAI is that they’re not very open” - Bristol Initiative Members Explore the Potential and Perils of AI

Sam Harrison
Marketing Executive | Business West
2nd May 2024

A lively roundtable discussion on Artificial Intelligence (AI) recently took place at the Bristol offices of DAC Beachcroft, bringing together members of the Bristol Initiative. Chaired by Jenny Ablett, the event started with a presentation by Kate Loxton and Isabella McMeechan from DAC Beachcroft, offering insights into the current state of AI, its applications within their firm, and the evolving legal landscape surrounding AI in the UK, US, and EU. 

One key topic that sparked debate was the concept of "crafting vs creating" in the context of AI. While some attendees questioned whether using AI-generated prompts to create art could be considered as creative as traditional methods, others drew parallels to the digital revolution in music production. 

One attendee, a director from a leading Bristol architectural firm highlighted the potential of AI to automate mundane tasks in architecture, such as checking building regulations. This, he suggested, could free up junior architects for more creative pursuits, allowing them to take on more clients. However, concerns were raised about the potential impact on entry-level positions, with one attendee questioning if it would be taking out "the bottom rung of staff" and removing the opportunity for young people at the start of their careers to learn fundamental skills on the job. 

The discussion then shifted to the legal implications of AI use, with a partner at a leading Bristol law firm questioning liability in cases where AI makes mistakes. Our host, Kate from DAC pointed out that some AI software offers indemnities or denies liability entirely, raising concerns about accountability.  

The conversation explored the potential for AI to surpass human capabilities. One Initiative Member in attendance mentioned a news story about an AI that successfully diagnosed cancer in MRI scans, outperforming doctors in some instances. 

Real-world applications of AI were also discussed. Another attendee, a corporate lawyer from a big Bristol firm shared their experience using AI to aid with contract reviews, allowing paralegals to focus on more complex tasks. Interestingly, they also have a policy against using the unreliable research tool Chat GPT, citing instances where lawyers unknowingly referenced fabricated legal precedents generated by the software. An Initiative Member from the communications sector highlighted the lack of transparency surrounding AI training data, raising concerns about potential bias, and noting "the problem is that OpenAI are not very open." 

Regulation emerged as a significant theme. The UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has called for AI regulation, though currently there is no legislation at all in the UK covering its use. An attendee noted that “the challenge of AI is that it is inherently international, but all legislation will be local.” Another attendee, a partner at a leading Bristol law firm, further noted the slow pace of legal change, citing the example of defamation law still struggling to adapt to social media. 

We also heard a unique perspective from an attending member in the entertainment industry. Despite competitors using AI to generate viral content targeted at kids on YouTube, their business has a strict policy against using AI for creative endeavours. While they do not allow use of AI in any of their creative processes, and in fact ban even freelancers from doing so who do not directly work for them, they do allow its use in support functions like finance.  

The roundtable concluded with a thought-provoking discussion on bias in AI, particularly concerning known biases around gender and race in areas like recruitment. The event proved to be a stimulating and informative exchange, highlighting the vast potential and complex considerations surrounding AI. Many people attending said they felt the same roundtable could be had every month and something would have changed, or new technology would have been developed every time. 

If you are a Bristol Initiative Member and you would like to host your own roundtable like this one, on any topic that interests you or your business, please get in touch with Jenny Ablett

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