UK government wants to use AI to cut civil service jobs

The two primary fears around AI are that the information these systems produce is gibberish, and that it’ll unjustly take jobs away from people who won’t make such sloppy mistakes. But the UK’s current government is actively promoting the use of AI to do the work normally done by civil servants, including drafting responses to parliamentary inquiries, the Financial Times reports.

UK Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden is set to unveil a “red box” tool that can allegedly absorb and summarize information from reputable sources, like the parliamentary record. A separate instrument is also being trialed that should work similarly but with individual responses to public consultations. While it’s unclear how quickly the AI tool can perform this work, Dowden claims it takes three months with 25 civil servants. However, the drafts would allegedly always be double-checked by a human and include sourcing.

The Telegraph quoted Dowden arguing that implementing AI technology is critical to cutting civil service jobs — something he wants to do. “It really is the only way, I think, if we want to get on a sustainable path to headcount reduction. Remember how much the size of the Civil Service has grown as a result of the pandemic and, and EU exit preparedness. We need to really embrace this stuff to drive the numbers down.” Dowden’s statement aligns with hopes from his boss, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, to use technology to increase government productivity — shockingly, neither person has offered to save money by giving AI their job.

Dowden does show some restraint against having AI do everything. In a pre-speech briefing, he noted that the government wouldn’t use AI for any “novel or contentious or highly politically sensitive areas.” At the same time, the Cabinet Office’s AI division is set to grow from 30 to 70 employees and to get a new budget of £110 million ($139.1 million), up from £5 million ($6.3 million).

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