Nick Clegg speaks at Lunar Society annual dinner

Last week, we held an event for our client The Lunar Society at the Edgbaston Stadium.

The Society’s 2017 Annual Dinner featured The Rt. Hon. Nick Clegg as speaker, and he spoke to just over a hundred members and guests about artificial intelligence and machine learning and the impact on politics and society, and also touched on the subject of his new book –‘How To Stop Brexit and Make Britain Great Again’.

The Society’s Chair, The Rt. Hon. Jacqui Smith, introduced the evening’s events and spoke about how, her opinion, if the original Lunar men were around today, their focus may well have been some of the technological preoccupations of 2017. In addition, they would be aware of the economic, ethical, social and political opportunities and challenges of the digital age and the technology that accompanies it.

Jacqui suggested also that the Lunar men would not have underestimated the challenges of Brexit for their research, trade and our place in the world. They would recognise that we face a profound challenge in our international role that will impact us for many generations to come.

Nick began by acknowledging that while the link between AI and Brexit might otherwise be tenuous, the two issues are big generational shifts in how we organise our society.

When it comes to artificial intelligence, Nick was emphatic that he doesn’t share the ‘apocalyptic vision’ of the supposed ‘march of robots’. Instead, he pointed out that there is no evidence of this yet – so far, this technological revolution is creating other forms of work. As people and as societies, we are infinitely adaptable. In some of the most automated economies, employment is at its highest level ever.

Nick set out how he hopes to become a public advocate of what international and domestic governments need to do in order to ensure we get the best out of artificial intelligence and avoid the worst. This includes ethical and regulatory considerations, along with the ever-crucial management of data.

Alongside his overwhelmingly positive attitude towards the AI revolution, Nick contrasted his pessimistic views about Brexit. His view is that there is no example of any other society as sophisticated as ours in the democratic world that has taken such a radical decision about our future against the stated wishes of those who will inhabit that future – namely, the young. Nick voiced his opinion that is was wrong and ‘democratically unsustainable’ that the 70% of 16-24 year-olds who voted to remain in the European Union have largely been ignored.

Following his speech, Nick took questions from and engaged with the audience in a discussion of various aspects of the rise of artificial intelligence and his proposal of how Theresa May should best have dealt with the referendum result.

The evening was an overall success with guests having had the chance to engage in discussion about two highly pivotal subjects that will undoubtedly shape the coming decades in this country.

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