Electric and Autonomous car

Tech Nuggets: China and U.S. Compete in EV Technology

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This article is  a new category of my blog post. It will focus on brief developments of selected technologies. The first is on the competition between two powerful countries, China  and the U.S., in developing new batteries to power EVs.  

Competition between China and the U.S. in batteries

In the last year, I have visited to car showrooms of BYD and Great Wall Motor (GWM), the two largest EV manufacturers from China. Their EVs offer sleek design and advanced battery technologies. I also see more EVs on the Malaysian roads with popular brands, such as Tesla, BYD, Ora Cat (GWM), and other lesser-known EVs from China.  Charging stations are sprouting in major towns and highways.

I am delaying my purchase of an EV because I anticipate that EV companies, like BYD and GWM, will be launching new EVs with much longer ranges.    

Currently,  China, as a country, is so dominant in the market for the batteries powering electric vehicles. .With a booming electric-vehicle market at home, Chinese battery makers are the giants of the industry . In the first four months of this year, just two companies from the country—Contemporary Amperex Technology, or CATL, and BYD—already have more than half of the global EV battery market between them, according to SNE Research. More crucially, Chinese manufacturers also dominate the supply chain for battery materials. China accounted for nearly 90% of cathode active material capacity globally and more than 97% for anodes, according to the International Energy Agency.

For countries such as the U.S. that wish to break China’s dominance in the automotive and power technology of the future, the only hope would be a scientific breakthrough that could shape the battery supply chain with different materials and components. New technology wouldn’t replace existing lithium-ion batteries, which have been around for five decades, but could provide alternative options.

There are a few potential candidates. Sodium-ion batteries look like the most viable alternative, but CATL and BYD have already massively ramped up their capacity. More than 90% of new supply announced through 2030 will come from China, according to Benchmark Mineral Intelligence. That is despite the fact that the utilization rate of sodium battery plants is still fairly low.

One advantage of sodium over lithium is that it is far more abundant. When lithium prices rose significantly two years ago, sodium batteries looked like they also would provide a cheaper alternative. With lithium prices having fallen back to earth , sodium’s cost advantage might have disappeared. Nevertheless, sodium offers a potential choice to hedge against volatile lithium prices. However, sodium batteries have lower energy density and might not be suitable for longer-range EVs. They might be a better choice for energy storage systems or low-end EVs. That is especially important for China, where smaller EVs with lower ranges have been popular with consumers.

Another option to boost energy density is to replace graphite anodes with silicon, making batteries lighter and able to store more energy. That could potentially challenge China’s dominance in graphite. Japan’s Panasonic said this past year it would purchase silicon anode materials from U.K. startup Nexeon. U.S. startup Group 14, backed by Microsoft and Porsche, also has a joint venture with Korean battery maker SK Group. Benchmark expects silicon anode capacity to more than triple this year.

But the technological Holy Grail has to be solid-state batteries—seemingly always a few years away. They replace liquid electrolytes with solid materials, which could make them safer, faster-charging and able to store much more energy than lithium batteries.

The technology still isn’t there, but it is getting closer. Startups QuantumScape (see previous blog) and Solid Power, for example, have started the qualification process with automakers, which could take four to six years. These companies went public with much fanfare a few years ago, but their share prices have dropped 90% or more from their peaks. Solid-state batteries offer many advantages over lithium ones. They will likely cost much more, though—especially at the outset.

China is also powering ahead on this solid-state battery as well. The Chinese Government will provide 6 billion yuan, equivalent to nearly $830 million, to companies including CATL and BYD to research and develop solid-state batteries, according to domestic media. EV maker NIO said it plans to produce cars using semisolid state technology, which might still contain liquid electrolytes.

For me, as a potential buyer of EV, my decision is slightly tilted on an EV from BYD, as it is  a leader in battery technology. In addition, except for the expensive Tesla EVs, no other  American EVs are available in Malaysia. .


Wong, Jacky. Wall Street Journal (online), New York, published on July 2nd, 2024

Jobs and Automation

More impacts of AI in 2024

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Since last semester, I have asked my MBA students to write essays on a certain management topic using the ChatGPT. Several essays were excellent while most others were not interesting readings. Many students were able to submit excellent essays, despite their lack of proficiency in English.  ChatGPT was obviously helping students to write business reports and analysis despite English being a second language.

I have met many entrepreneurs in 2023 who would apply AI models in various business applications for sales and marketing, and stock investment decisions.

Many articles and analysis are predicting that AI will have more impacts in many areas and would upend specific sectors in developed economies and developing countries in Asia and Africa.  

The London Telegraph on December 28th, 2023, in an article written by James Titcomb, noted that employees at OpenAI did not expect much on November 30 2022 when the company unveiled a “low-key research preview” called ChatGPT.

Greg Brockman, OpenAI’s president, told staff that it wouldn’t have much of an impact on day-to-day business, confidently forecasting that it would only get noticed in a few nerdy corners of Twitter.

It quickly became obvious that this was a wild underestimate. Millions of users signed up within days and ChatGPT was dubbed the most important technology in a decade, leading to a worldwide fervor about artificial intelligence.

Employees could be forgiven for failing to predict its popularity, though. ChatGPT, with its ability to conjure up essays and arguments, may have astonished its early users, but to its developers, it was positively medieval. 

The underlying AI system it was based on, known as GPT-3.5, was almost a year old. The company had already developed its successor, GPT-4, and was preparing to release it to the public.

OpenAI described it as being 10 times more advanced, saying it could understand not only text but images; and could pass legal examinations.

Now, just over a year later, the company is taking its first steps toward a vastly more powerful system.

ChatGPT founder Sam Altman has warned over AI’s existential risk to humanity. Those who worry that AI is an existential risk to humanity fret that new systems are being developed before we have got our heads around the existing ones.

Either way, the release of GPT-5 is expected to be the AI event of 2024.

Developing computer software is typically a case of tweaking previous versions to eke out small improvements.

Creating new AI systems – known as large language models – is often a case of starting again. An unprecedentedly vast amount of data is thrown at an unprecedentedly powerful system of next generation microchips, resulting in a model several times more powerful than what came before.

GPT-1, the primordial model created in 2018, was trained on 117 million data points known as parameters. GPT-3 required more than one thousand times that, at 175 billion, and GPT-4 was another 10-fold increase, at 1.7 trillion.

The computing requirements have increased too. GPT-4 reportedly required 16,000 high-end Nvidia A100 chips, against 1,024 for the previous generation. Little is known about the next wave of models, but they are certain to be trained on Nvidia’s new H100 chips, a vastly more powerful successor that is the first to be specifically designed for training AI models.

“The history of computer science and AI has been that increased scale results in substantial improvements,” says Oren Etzioni, the former chief executive of the Allen Institute for AI.

“The step up from GPT-3 to GPT-4 was so dramatic, that you would be a fool not to try it again.”

Google, which unveiled its new model Gemini in December, is preparing to release the more powerful Gemini Ultra in the new year. Anthropic, the Amazon-backed AI lab, may also launch a new system.

Scientists are divided, though, on exactly what more powerful will mean. Today’s large language models are approaching the upper limits on certain tasks. Google’s Gemini already outperforms humans on a widely used language comprehension test and on computer programming exams.  

That does not make it any less prone to common criticisms of today’s AI models: that they lack creativity, only regurgitating what they have been fed; and that they have a poor understanding of truth, making them prone to “hallucinating” facts.

Experts such as Nathan Benaich, the founder of investment firm Air Street Capital and the co-author of the annual State of AI report, says the next generation of systems will be “multimodal” – capable of understanding text, images, videos and audio. That, he says, will bring them closer to understanding the world.

Demis Hassabis, the head of Google’s Deepmind lab, has said this could come to include sensations such as touch, which could lead to the systems being embedded in robots that can understand the world.

The next wave of models could display capabilities akin to reasoning and planning – qualities that we might associate with human intelligence.

AI that can switch from one task to another would be a step towards autonomous “agents” – systems that can carry out tasks on people’s behalf, such as booking a holiday or reading and answering emails.

The consequences of that could be profound. While today’s AI systems have threatened to take jobs in areas like copywriting and design, they must typically be chaperoned through the writing or illustrating process. Those that can turn their words into action – a customer service bot that can book flights, for example – would be more threatening.

These predictions are largely guesses, however. And even today’s AI models are too complex to completely understand.

This is one of the reasons the next wave of models will face increasing government scrutiny. Nine companies – Amazon, Anthropic, Google, Inflection, Meta, Microsoft, Mistral, OpenAI and Elon Musk’s x.ai – have agreed to have their systems tested by the UK government’s AI Safety Institute before they are released.

Companies have signed up to similar commitments with the White House in the US.  The most advanced version of Google’s Gemini model is believed to be going through screening by officials before its upcoming release.

Equally, the next wave of AI systems could prove to be a bust. Sceptics believe that most of the low-hanging fruits have already picked, and that improvements from this point will be marginal no matter how much computer power is deployed.

But if the capabilities of next year’s models remain unknown for now, it seems certain that existing AI technologies will become more widely used.

In 2023, AI may have captured the popular imagination, but it might not be until 2024 that its impact really starts to be felt.

Ai models are likely to provide  solutions to problems that typically small- and medium-sized companies face every day: high staff turnover, lack of skills and available manpower, sales staff, accounting, and compliance.  

In 2024, my company, Bison Consulting, will be working with AI partners to offer services using AI models.

We could learn from my wife’s “steno moment”. In 1980’s many young girls in small town learned short-hand writing to become stenographer. When the Wang word-processor was introduced, the demand for stenographers disappeared, and many short-hand writing schools closed. Today, there is no position called stenographer in firms.   

Jobs and Automation

Are you at risk of being replaced by artificial intelligence?

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The rise of advanced AI tools such as ChatGPT and Stable Diffusion, which generates images based on text prompts, has generated fears that jobs would be substituted by the technology.

One of first studies into the impact of AI on the jobs market in the UK, carried out by the Department for Education (DfE), has concluded that consultants, accountants and psychologists are most exposed to the rise of AI.

Sports players, roofers and construction workers were among those least likely to be affected by the technology.

People with higher levels of education are more likely to be impacted than those with lower level qualifications.

The research refers to “exposure” to AI systems, meaning jobs may be aided or replaced by AI. However, careers that are aided by AI may also generate fewer jobs if it means technology can accomplish key tasks.

Official statistics divide professions in the UK into 365 categories, such as solicitors, librarians and nurses, although some jobs are categorised more widely, such as financial managers.

The DfE’s provided an “AI occupational exposure (AIOE) ” score to each job based on AI’s ability to replicate the skills required.

The scores range from around -2 to 1.5, with a higher score indicating a profession is more likely to be affected.

The DfE said it was generally believed that between 10pc and 30pc of existing jobs will be affected by AI, although new jobs will also be created to take advantage of the technology.

A study from US researchers earlier this year found that AI tools like ChatGPT were already taking freelance work away from copywriters and graphic designers.

The DfE said: “The report illustrates how the education system and employers will need to adapt to ensure the workforce has the skills necessary to benefit from this emerging technology.”

Men of the cloth have persevered for millennia, surviving the separation of church and state, the industrial revolution and multiple world wars.

Yet vicars and priests are now under threat from a very modern scourge: chatbots.

Jobs in the clergy are among the most exposed to the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), according to a government report.

Clergy members were ranked as the 13th most exposed to “large language model” systems out of the 365 categories of occupation studied.

They were deemed slightly less likely to be affected than local government administrators, but slightly more vulnerable than university lecturers.

The figures were based on what key skills are used in each profession, such as written comprehension and inductive reasoning, and how easily they could be replicated by AI.

The study may have missed unique aspects of individual professions and the research does not speculate how precisely the technology could influence each job.

Concerns about AI’s impact have increased in the last year as a result of advances in systems such as ChatGPT, which is already being widely used in the workplace.

Generative AI systems, which are capable of rapidly processing and generating text and images, are already disrupting the job market by leading to fewer opportunities for freelance copywriters and illustrators.

The DfE said its report showed that the education system and employers alike would have to adapt to provide more training as existing jobs are disrupted.

The report said it did not distinguish between jobs that were likely to be aided by AI and those that were likely to be replaced, and that it was based on a “number of uncertain assumptions”.

Economists had expected educated, white-collar workers to be the least exposed to the rise of AI before the arrival of ChatGPT, which has reversed assumptions about what jobs are vulnerable.

AIOE (AI Occupational Exposure and AI applications)

Felten et al (2021) have developed the AIOE measure based on Ai applications of AI that are likely to have implications for the workforce that cover the most likely andmost common uses of AI. Below is the list of AI applications.

Ai applicationDefinition
Abstract strategy gameThe ability to play abstract games involving sometimes complex  strategy and reasoning ability, such as chess, go or checkers, at a high level
Real-time video gamesThe ability to play a variety of real-time video games of increasing complexity at a high level.
Image recognitionThe determination of what objects  are present in a  still image.
Visual question answeringThe recognition of events, relationships , and context from a  still image
Image generationThe creation of complex images.
Reading comprehensionThe ability to answer  simple reasoning questions based on an understanding of text.
Language modellingThe ability to model, predict , or mimic human language.
TranslationThe translation of words  or text from one language into another.
Speech recognitionThe recognition of spoken language into text
Instrumental track recognitionThe recognition of instrumental musical tracks

Readers who are interested on the AIOE measure should read the following:

  1. Occupational, industry and geographic exposure to artificial intelligence: A novel dataset and its potential use. Strategic Management Journal, 42 (12).
  • E. Felten, M. Raj, and R. Seamans (2023). How will Language Modeller like ChatGPT  affect occupations  and industries?
  • DfE. The impact of AI on UK jobs and training. November 2023.
Must-Read Reports

Novo Nordisk: A company that is bigger than its country’s GDP

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AI has taken the world by storm, and AI companies like OpenAI, the owner of the popular ChatGPT, attract high market valuation. A lesser-known innovation is also attracting investors, and the companies that offer the innovative products have soared in market valuation.

The innovation is the weight-loss drugs. with two companies, Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly, are leading manufacturers, which have their drugs approved in the US and the UK. The recent market value of Novo Nordisk is US431 billion, as compared to the GDP of Denmark in 2022 of US$395 billion. At this market value, the company is the 15th most valuable company in the world and the most valuable company in Europe.  Its counterpart, Eli Lilly is worth US$525 billion, a company based in the US, a country of GDP size of more than US25 trillion. Both companies are established pharmaceutical firms..

Novo Nordisk is a unique company in a country of Denmark, which has a  population of only 5.9 million.

Ownership structure of Novo Nordisk

Novo Nordisk’s total share capital of DKK451,000,000 is divided into an A share capital of nominally DKK107,48,200 and a B share capital of nominally DKK342,512,800 (1DKK is 0.14 US$).

The company’s A shares are not listed and are held by Novo Holdings A/S, a Danish public limited liability company, which is wholly-owned by the Novo Nordisk Foundation.

The Foundation has a  dual objective; (1) to provide a stable basis for the commercial and research activities conducted by the companies within the Novo Group (of which Novo Nordisk is the largest) and (2) to support the scientific and humanitarian purposes.

Novo Nordisk’s history

Novo Nordisk’s history spans back to the 1920s, when the company began as two separate  diabetes-focused entities: Nordisk Insulinlaboratorium and Novo Therapeutisk Laboratorium.

Nordisk Insulinlabratorium was founded in 1923, by Danish couple August and Marie Krogh. August Krogh was a  professor at the University of Copenhagen and has been invited to the US by researchers at Yale University of the US  to lecture on his medical research, after receiving the Nobel Prize for physiology in 1920.

Throughout their tour of the US, August and Marie Krogh came across many reports of people with diabetes being treated with insulin. Insulin was a  hormone discovered in 1921 by two Canadian researchers, Banting and Best. Marie, as a doctor, was interested in the treatment as she herself had Type 2 diabetes.

Returning from their trip in the US with permission to produce insulin in the Nordic countries, August and Marie Krogh along with Dr Hans Christian Hagedorn, founded Nordisk Insulinlaboratorium. The pharmacist August Kongsted, owner of Leo Pharmaceuticals, provided the financial support that made it possible to establish the company.

In the same year as it was founded, the company produced the first insulin product in Scandinavia; Insulin Leo. The name was not a coincidence. In return for financial  backing, August Kongsted asked for Nordisk’s first product to be named after his company,. The company hired Herald Pedersen to build the machines for insulin production.

Herald’s brother, Thorvald Pedersen, was also hired by Nordisk to analyse the chemical processes involved in insulin production. However, the brothers did not work at Nordisk for very long. They decided to manufacture insulin themselves, succeeding by producing a stable liquid insulin product that they named  insulin novo. The brothers felt that they could not  cope with the marketing themselves . They contacted their former employer to discuss a deal. But Krogh and Hagedorn turned the offer down. The brothers decide to do it alone. Novo Therapeutisk was formed on February 16th, 1925.

Nordisk kept progressing

In 1926, the company established the Nordisk Insulin Foundation, which aimed to support the physiological and endocrinological research and people with diabetes in Scandinavia.

Nordisk also founded the Steno Memorial Hospital  in 1932. In 1946, Nordisk developed neutral insulin with prolonged action, with a brand name of isophane insulin (Neutral Protamine Hagedorn, NPH).

Novo was charting its own path

While Nordisk was building its portfolio of insulin products, the Pedersen brothers began to build up their company, Novo Therapeutisk Laboratorium. The year the company was established n 1925, they managed to market two products, Insulin Novo and the Novo Syringe. Novo then succeeded to launch its first product manufactured through fermentation, which was called Penicillin Novo.

In 1938, Novo founded the Hvidovre Diabetes Sanatorium, after buying the Hvidovre stately home (which began as the home of Denmark’s King Hans). The 1950’s signified a good year for Novo. In 1951, Novo established the Novo Foundation, which a non-for-profit organization that aims to support scientific. social and humanitarian causes  and also has the objective to provide the best protection for the company. In 1953, Novo launched a long-acting insulin-zinc suspension called Lente. For a period of time, the Lente products covered up to third  of the world’s insulin consumption. In 1973, Novo introduced Monocomponent  (MC) insulin. This was a  step for Novo because it was the purest insulin available at the time.

In the 1970s, Novo; s shares were listed on the Copenhagen Stock Exchange, followed by a listing on the New York Stock Exchange, the first Scandinavian company to achieve that feat.

By the 1980s, Novo launched Human Monocomponent insulin. The difference between this and its previously launched Monocomponent insulin is that the new version was the world’s first insulin preparation which is identical to human insulin. The extraction process this time was from the pancreases of pigs  and then converted to human insulin.

The merger between Novo and Nordisk

As the two pharmaceutical companies operated within a few kilometers of each other, pursuing the same markets, researchers and scientific personnel, rumours began to start in the 1980s about a possible merger.

It was in the late 1980s, specifically in 1989, when Novo and Nordisk officially merged.  First, the Nordisk Insulinlaboratorium, the Nordisk Insulin Foundation and the Novo Foundation merged to become the Novo Nordisk Foundation. The aim of this merger was to provide a stable basis for the Novo Group Companies’ operations and to also support scientific causes. Then, Novo Group joined the merger and the company’s well-known of today, Novo Nordisk, was established. As  a result, Novo Nordisk became the world’s leading producer of insulin. In the same year, the merged company marketed the world’s first prefilled disposable insulin syringe, NovoLet.

Today, Novo Nordisk in involved in core areas, such as diabetes care, haemostasis management, growth hormone therapy, and hormone replacement therapy.

Novo Nordisk’s weight-loss drugs are new growth areas 

According to Matthew Lynn of the London Telegraph, writing on October 10th, 2023, weight-loss drugs will transform our economy as well as our waistlines. The weight-loss drugs will transform our lives as comparable to AI and it is a significant breakthrough. It will replace hundreds of millions of jobs. It will revolutionize the way we work and it will turn every major industry upside down.

There has been a lot of news over the past year and months about the way that AI will transform the economy. And yet there is another innovation with the potential for far greater impact, that is weight-loss drugs.

From flying, to snacking, to healthcare and insurance, the new generation of pills and injections to reduce Type 2 diabetes and obesity may well turn out to be the genuinely transformative innovation of this decade, and in ways the capital markets have only started to reckon with.

Semaglutide, the medication sold under the brand name Wegovy, by Novo Nordisk, is arguably one of the most successful drugs in a generation, if we exclude the relatively short-lived success of the Covid 19 vaccines. This has quadrupled the share prices of Novo Nordisk that has allowed Novo Nordisk to become the most valuable company in Europe. Its success also contributed to a strong GDP growth of Denmark.

The impact of weight-loss drugs could extend far wider than Novo Nordisk. In many European countries, such as the UK, a quarter of the population are classified as obese, while another 37 per cent are overweight. In the US, more than 40 per cent of the population is classified as obese, and 11 per cent as “severely obese” (defined as more than seven stones overweight-1 stone equals 6.35 kg). In Malaysia, about 20 per cent of the population are considered obese.

Obesity is  a major problem right across the world, and one that comes with huge costs. Governments have tried to tackle it with public health campaigns, food reformulation, sugar taxes and other regulations.  None of these measures has really made much difference. Drugs could have a  genuine impact. That will be hugely beneficial for individual health, and the economy in ways that we have only just started to grasp. Take flying, for example. A report by the broker Jeffries estimated that the US airline, United Airlines alone could save US80 million a year if the average passenger  weight fell by 4.5 kg; the increasing size of passengers has been a growing problem for all the main airlines.

Thus, the economics of the airline industry would be transformed  by a general reduction of everyone’s size .

Clothes retailers may get a  boast as well; in the short term, everyone will refresh their wardrobe with shirts and dresses that are a couple of size smaller. In the long run, they will spend less on fabrics as the volume required falls.

Food manufacturers are impacted   

Of course, not everyone  will benefit. Recently, the food manufacturer, Kellog’s, spun out its snacking unit, which includes brand such as Pringle chips, into a new company called Kellanova. It share prices fell sharply after listing.

It might be that investors are growing nervous abut the market for high-salt, high-fat snacks in a world where medication is suppressing our appetite.

But the biggest impact will be on healthcare. Obesity is one of the major causes  of a wide  range of medical problems, with comorbidities including high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and heart diseases.

We can expect the cost of insurance to fall significantly  as people get healthier. The public finances may well end up in a far better shape, since the burden on medical systems will be reduced. Even, the pension system needs to be reformed to account for greater longevity.

Semaglutide can only be prescribed as a part of a specialist weight management service  for a maximum of two years, according to current Nice guidelines, casting into doubt its longer-term impact. There may be also side effects to worry about. But it looks like a revolutionary medicine, that is the most effective treatment for obesity to date.

The market for weight-loss drugs is huge, worth an estimated US$100 billion annually, that all the major pharmaceutical companies are working on bringing their own products to the market. So high is the current demand for semaglutide that manufacturers are having to restrict supplies. The incentive for Novo Nordisk and other firms to create a range of better products is huge.

News reports noted that F&B companies are closely monitoring the impact of weight-loss drugs on sales of their products. In fact, Walmart, the largest food retailer in the US reported that people who picked up a prescription for weight loss medicines at its pharmacies are spending less on foods with high calories.

Wegovy, manufactured by Novo Nordisk, is already available in the US and the UK. Another appetite-suppressing  drug, Ozempic, is rumoured to be widely used in Hollywood for weight-loss, although it is designed to help people with diabetes manage the condition

This new breed of weight-loss drugs have been hailed as “miracle drugs” thanks to their efficacy in helping weight loss.

F&B companies would be required to reformulate their products and place more focus on zero-sugar drinks and portion control packages amid changing preferences among consumers.  

Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly control the weight-loss drugs market with brands such as Ozempic, Wegovy and Munjaro. Othe drug companies are also racing to develop weight-loss drugs, though they may not be available soon. These weight-loss drugs are also being investigated as a treatment for dementia and addiction.

These developments would provide positive impact to Novo Nordik, which started about 100 years ago in the small town of Bagsvaerd in Denmark. Many small countries, such as Malaysia, could learn from Novo Nordisk in its achievement to become a world leading company by initially focusing on specific treatment of diabetes. 


  1. Yahoo Finance
  2. Matthew Lynn. Weight-loss drugs will transform our economy as well as our waistlines. The Telegraph, October 10th, 2023.
  3. Hannah Blake. Pharmaphorum.
Must-Read Reports

Conversation about AI

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We note that with the rapid progression of AI comes a whole series of questions are being asked by people. In this blog, we have compiled  a series of questionnaires submitted by readers of the UKs’ newspaper, Telegraph, on September 18th, 2023.

Concerns about AI range from how will it change the nature of work to what it might mean for human life on earth. As artificial intelligence continues to advance at a rapid pace, technology CEOs and influencers across the globe have been sharing their views on what impacts are to be expected.

Many are concerned how artificial intelligence will change the nature of their work, and whether it will make certain jobs redundant. Others question how society will change, and indeed what the advancement of AI might mean for human life on earth. 

The Telegraph’s technology editor, James Titcomb, has answered the most pressing of readers’ queries about AI and what it holds for the future. 

Question 1:

“How fast is AI coming along? For instance, is it learning how human emotions work yet?”

The Telegraph’s technology editor, James Titcomb, responds: 

“AI is clearly making rapid progress in some areas, but remains fairly basic in others. One of the problems with the term ‘artificial intelligence’ is that it makes us think of these systems in human terms. 

“The reality is that in some fields – arithmetic, for example – machines have outperformed us for decades; in others, they are nowhere near. Emotions fall into the latter: we haven’t really built AI that exhibits anything close to an emotion, partly because we don’t really understand how they work in living things. 

“There are certainly AIs that scan faces and voices to detect emotions, which have been used by police and marketing companies, although their effectiveness has been questioned.

“For now, it’s probably better to think about AI in terms of individual capabilities than comparing it to the human brain. In some areas, such as generating images or summarising text, it is improving quickly, although these changes tend to come in fits and spurts, rather than improving gradually.”

Question 2:

How do we prevent this tech hitting escape velocity and leaving us behind?”

Telegraph’s expertreplies: 

“For now, AI still can’t do a lot of things we can do, so it’s unlikely that we will be left behind any time soon, but experts do have some ideas about how to manage its rise. 

“One is that we should ban AI from writing computer code to develop AI. This would prevent a phenomenon known as ‘recursive self-improvement’ where a system repeatedly improves itself until it outsmarts humans and then becomes all-powerful.

“Another emerging research area is known as AI alignment: ensuring that a robot’s goals are in line with ours. It is hoped that this would prevent famous doomsday scenarios where an AI is given a straightforward task – cleaning up the oceans or creating paperclips – and ends up destroying humanity as a side effect.”

Question 3:

Surely we are our own worst enemies when it comes to AI?”

Here’s what Telegraph’s expert has to say: 

“If you bring up concerns about artificial intelligence with researchers, or suggest that progress could be slower, many will argue that easing back is pointless. They say that somebody is going to develop this technology sooner than later, and wouldn’t you rather it was us than China or Russia?

“As with most technologies, development is often hard to stop. One exception has been nuclear weapons, where a concerted international effort stopped their deployment decades ago. Safety advocates would like to see similar treaties and international agreements when it comes to AI: some have proposed a body similar to the International Atomic Energy Agency to regulate use of the technology.”

Question 4:

How will cybersecurity experts’ work be impacted by AI?”

Telegraph’s expert responds: 

“In short: they’ll be busy! Security experts have warned for years that AI could lead to the industrialisation of hacking as automated systems probe for weaknesses in security networks. 

“A growing concern is that AI software that can accurately replicate people’s voices and likenesses could bypass security controls such as voice banking, or automate scams so that vulnerable people are fooled into sending money.

“We’re yet to see that come to pass, but it is probably only a matter of time. Cybersecurity experts are likely to be as in-demand as ever.”

Question 5:

I don’t understand why AI is being introduced. Why would we as a nation give further way to instability in the employment industry and opportunity to earn a salary? It’s frightening.”

James says: 

“New technologies – from the loom to the steam engine – have often threatened to displace jobs, but have in the end made us more productive, with plenty of employment still available. The question with AI is whether it represents a step change that could make vast swathes of the workforce, not just certain jobs, redundant. We’re not there yet.

“The other response is that it’s simply difficult to hold inventions back, at least not without very strict regulation. Employers that could save money by employing AI are unlikely to voluntarily choose to ignore it.”

Question 6:

Do we need AI?”

Telegraph’s expert replies: 

“We often talk about the downsides of AI, and many of the uses that have emerged in the last few months – cheating at homework, hacking or copyright infringement – seem like things we could do without. AI’s supporters say there are very serious advantages, such as making us more productive at work, helping to discover new drugs, and the eventual arrival of self-driving cars, which could make the roads safer.

“The UK’s flatlining productivity in the last decade and a half has consistently puzzled economists and politicians: if AI can help fix the puzzle, it would certainly be a benefit.”

Question 7:

“Surely if jobs are at risk it means it’s not good for the economy with less tax being pumped into the system, shouldn’t the Government intervene to protect the citizens?”

Telegraph’s expert  answers:

“Generally, new technologies haven’t meant fewer jobs over the long run, but there is an active debate over whether taxpaying human jobs should be protected in the short term to minimise disruption to individual livelihoods.

“One proposal, that has been supported by Bill Gates and others, is to tax robots and AI in the same way we do humans. In theory, this would level the playing field, putting humans at less of an advantage.

“In practice, it’s hard to define AI, and even harder to tax it. But if millions of humans are rendered redundant, governments will have to find a way to adapt. Higher taxes on wealth or on corporate profits to fund a universal basic income are among the ideas that have been mooted.”

Question 8:

To what extent are A level and university essay questions being redesigned to overcome AI assistance?”

Telegraph’s experts says:

“One of the first clear impacts of ChatGPT has been a cheating epidemic. Thousands of students have turned in essays and homework generated by the system, leading some schools and universities to ban the software. 

“Others have turned to anti-cheating tools designed to check if something has been written by AI, although many produce errors, leading students who have written their own work being falsely accused of cheating.

“Teachers seem to be gradually adapting, rather than resisting, however. Some are moving essay writing to the classroom, where students cannot use ChatGPT. Others are allowing students to use the software, but adding interviews to show that students understand the subject. 

“The latter might prove more useful: like calculators and spell check, students are likely to continue using AI in the world of work.”

Question 9:

If you were a teenager soon to be making choices for university and future career, what would you seek or avoid with AI in mind?”

Telegraph’s expert replies: 

“This is a great question. The instinctual answer is computer science or maths: if AI is going to replace jobs, it seems a safe bet that at least the people developing it will be in employment. 

“Any skilled physical job is likely to be in demand for some time: while software has come on in leaps and bounds, robots remain a challenge. Lawyers will have no shortage of work either, judging by the frequent lawsuits against AI companies from people who say they have been libelled or had their data stolen.

“With some exceptions, however, many of today’s jobs are still likely to exist, just in different forms. AI is a tool that still requires human intervention.”

Question 10:

Should we consider films based on tech, such as Will Smith in I, Robot being a very possible reality within the next 50 years?”

Telegraph’s expert answers: 

“Probably not. Hollywood movies such as The Terminator have done a good job of entertaining us but a pretty poor job of educating us about an AI future. For example, they often give AI human qualities – a lust for power – that we have no evidence they possess.

“50 years is a long time frame, and AI will undoubtedly make huge advances over the decades. 

“We should certainly be wary of the risks – but the most risky scenarios to do with AI are probably about humans incorrectly deploying them in areas like weapons systems than the typical Hollywood examples of a race of robots enslaving humans.”

Question 11:

Will AI be able to replace customer service operators?”

Telegraph’s expert replies:

“This is something that is already happening. Go on many websites today and you’ll find yourself talking to an AI bot, rather than a human operator. Energy provider Octopus, for example, says that customers actually prefer communicating with AI than staff.

“AI is unlikely to be able to answer all queries for many years, but the number of cases it can deal with are likely to gradually increase until it is handling the majority of customer service issues. 

“For now, AI is better at answering chats and emails than phone calls, but voice recognition and replication technology means that is changing too, although some people may find it uncanny.”

Question 12:

“As a finance and banking professional, how can one adapt to the new AI environment to avoid retrenchment?”

Telegraph’s expert says:

“It is hard to predict, but the white collar jobs that are probably most at risk from artificial intelligence are those in repetitive or data-intensive tasks: data entry and analysis, compliance, and so on. Those that involve a lot of personal interaction are less likely to be affected. That is probably the case from finance to a lot of other office-based jobs.

“These changes tend to happen relatively gradually though, and employers often find new jobs for their workers. Computers and the internet have changed offices hugely, but we still have just as many people employed in them, even though we have fewer typists and secretaries.”

We hope the answers will shed some lights on concerns raised by the readers of Telegraph. These concerns should also be in the mind of people all over the world.