Keeping an eye on AI
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Today’s top stories
British Airways, Boots and the BBC confirmed they had been hit by a “cyber security incident” affecting their payroll provider, which is also likely to have attacked scores of British companies including some of the country’s best-known names.
The European Space Agency outlined a plan to send astronauts to the moon on a homegrown rocket within a decade.
US banks are preparing for losses in the teetering commercial property estate market which could be “the next shoe to drop” after the recent turmoil among regional banks.
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UK prime minister Rishi Sunak heads to Washington on Wednesday in an attempt to put Britain at the heart of the debate over the development and regulation of artificial intelligence.
Sunak is expected to discuss the idea of a “Cern for AI” — a research base modelled on the particle physics laboratory in Switzerland — with a global regulatory body that could look something like the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The debate over how to regulate the fast-moving industry has heated up in recent weeks, with a group of chief executives and scientists from companies including OpenAI and Google DeepMind warning that its threat to humanity rivalled that of nuclear conflict and disease.
Geoffrey Hinton and Yoshua Bengio, often described as the “godfathers” of AI, also signed the document on the technology’s risks. Hinton left his job at Google last month to speak freely about the potential dangers.
But although the calls for regulation may verge on the apocalyptic, the industry seems reluctant to modify its own behaviour, says Stanford academic and EU adviser Marietje Schaake. She argues lawmakers should stop deferring to companies which claim they are the only ones smart enough to understand the issues involved. “From big tobacco to big oil, we have learnt the hard way that businesses cannot set disinterested regulations,” she writes.
Whichever direction future regulation takes, investors’ enthusiasm seems undimmed.
Nvidia last week became the first chipmaker to hit a $1tn valuation, projecting its sales would beat Wall Street’s previous forecasts by some 50 per cent. And, while the hype may recall some of the enthusiasm of the dotcom boom, there is reason to believe that much of the buzz about a “tipping point” in computing eras is on firmer ground.
Economists are also starting to believe that AI could — eventually — be the answer to boosting productivity growth, which has been anaemic since the 2008 financial crisis.
And for some groups, such as top Hollywood stars, the technology could enable the biggest productivity boost of all: that of working in several places at the same time.
Need to know: UK and Europe economy
Turkish inflation fell to the lowest level since late 2021, after president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gave away free gas ahead of last month’s elections, pushing down household bills. The country’s new finance minister has promised a return to “rational” economic policy.
The focus for postwar planning in Ukraine should focus on making the country a hub for Europe’s green transition, argues Martin Sanbu.
Need to know: Global economy
Saudi Arabia said it would cut oil production by 1mn barrels a day to try to prop up prices after a meeting of the Opec+ group. Russia, the world’s second-largest exporter, could also have its targets lowered, though the group said this was subject to review.
An annual reshoring index shows China will soon account for less than half of the US’s low-cost imports from Asia for the first time in more than a decade. The relocation of manufacturing was initially driven by Trump-era tariffs on goods and labour shortages in China, but has accelerated under the Biden administration.
The strategic rivalry between the US and China highlights an “unheralded revolution” in America’s approach to international economics, writes chief foreign affairs commentator Gideon Rachman. But is the Biden administration winning the argument for a new Washington consensus?
Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela’s authoritarian president, is gaining greater regional recognition, frustrating US and EU efforts to press him into free and fair elections next year.
The seven western members of the Arctic Council in a series of FT interviews expressed fears that China and Russia could exploit geopolitical tensions to increase their influence over the region and its rich natural resources.
Communities hit hard by climate change are turning to the courts for redress. An FT Big Read delves into the debate about who should pay to bring the coming wave of cases.
Need to know: business
The International Air Transport Association doubled its forecast for airline profits this year to $9.8bn as passenger demand bounced back after net losses of $3.6bn in 2022. The resurgence is also notable for new orders of aircraft.
The British Chambers of Commerce announced a new business council to rival that of the troubled CBI, traditionally the UK’s biggest business lobby group, which is holding a members’ meeting tomorrow to agree plans for its relaunch. CBI president Brian McBride makes the case in the FT.
A new FT Big Read looks at Orlen, the Polish oil and gas company at the heart of a debate over the state’s influence on the energy market and the rest of the economy.
FT contributing editor Ruchir Sharma examines Europe’s dominance of the global luxury business and wonders whether it has become too reliant on a sector many see as a symbol of decadence. “If it’s not clear how much smartphones boost productivity growth, it is safe to say that French perfume and Italian handbags contribute even less,” he writes.
Oil and gas companies’ returns in the form of dividends and share buybacks hit a 15-year high in 2022 — accounting for 39 per cent of spending, according to the International Energy Agency. The industry spent just 1 per cent of its cash investing in clean energy.
The World of Work
When your passion is also your job: columnist Simon Kuper says ambitious opportunists might end up living in bigger houses but those with a vocation (usually) have a more satisfying life.
Ever fancied having a remote personal assistant for those irksome work and domestic chores? Columnist Emma Jacobs road tests an increasingly popular employee benefit.
Those of us whose inboxes have not dipped below half a million for many years will sympathise with Pilita Clark’s new column on the scourge of email, confirmed by a Microsoft report that found workers were struggling to keep up with a “crush of data, information and always-on communications”.
Some good news
Some good news from FT HQ. Journalist Paul Gould’s Last Dance at the Discotheque for Deviants, which has won a diversity prize for a debut novel, is out this week. The book, which inaugurates a publishing imprint for writers of colour, is set in pre-Putin Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union and explores the underground LGBT scene. Here’s Paul’s interview in the Bookseller.