Richard Benjamins: “The AI will not take our jobs, it will transform them”

Sandra Urbaneja, Inés Jerez

Today, 13th March 2024, has taken place at Universidad Europea a talk by Richard Benjamins, the chief responsible AI officer in Telefónica, founder of its Big Data for Social Good area and great promoter of the ethical use of artificial intelligence and for social good; co-founder of the Observatory of the Social and Ethical Impact of Artificial Intelligence (OdisseIA), advisor to CDP (the NGO for climate change reporting) and external expert of the European Parliament AI Observatory (EPAIO), and startup mentor and founding member from Springer AI and Ethics magazine. He was Group Chief Data Officer.

AI is a huge business opportunity, that is why people have been investing so much in it in the last five years. Generative AI is so useful it can recognise faces or do medical diagnosis, Benjamin admits that he has used chat gpt to help for his presentation. His company, Telefonica, uses AI in order to improve business, for example it helps with business optimisation or by getting closer with the customers by interacting with them. Richard Benjamins says that since 2018, inversions in AI have increased by 48% and that in 2030, $15,7 trillion will have been invested in it. Artificial intelligence not only can be applied in business, it can also help with poverty and hunger reduction, climate action, quality education or gender equality. Another use might be that it can help to improve traffic in big cities, like Barcelona. 

Extrapolating our estimates globally suggests that generative AI could expose the equivalent of 300 million full-time jobs to automation. In the future a one-fourth of current work tasks could be automated by AI in the US and Europe. If you have a social and creative job your chances of losing it are very low, nevertheless, if you have an optimization-based and asocial job the chances are higher, also physical work is more difficult to be replaced by AI because it needs more investments. However, AI has some indirect risks, for example it can influence people in political topics, such as in 2016 in the UK with Brexit that people were influenced to vote. Another example is that AI can reproduce anyone’s voice and make them say whatever you want, like the viral Barack Obama’s video insulting Donald Trump, this is called “Deepfake”. 

The key part for companies to make responsible use of artificial intelligence is protecting civil rights; making sure that there are not any bad applications; not using it to hire, fire or promoting people; having human supervision to make sure there is no sexist or racist speech, etc. Basically making an ethical use of the AI, to learn about this, UNESCO has post Recommendations on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence. Besides, the AI officer of Telefonica, explains that his company has developed a methodology of responsible use of AI, first of all employees must be trained in the good-way of it use, next the doubts should be answered by experts in the subject and finally the controversial issues must be resolved, making a responsible business office.

At the end of the talk, people were anxious to ask Richard Benjamins some questions about the subject, so he answered some questions of the public. He affirms that workers are not in danger of being deployed, but since companies will be transformed, they will have to adapt. Also, he says that there are economic incentives for companies to be responsible with AI, besides of being the right thing to do, people prefer a company that behaves conscientiously with it. About the use of AI in school system, he explains that chat gpt and generated AI are opportunities to reinvent education, as long as, teachers are taught about it, so they can differentiate if something is written by a student or an artificial intelligence.