The Labour Party’s annual conference is under way in Brighton, with Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell the keynote speaker. But speakers at fringe events have been discussing everything from racism in sport to new technology.
A Canadian venture capitalist has told a fringe event at the Labour Party conference that although artificial intelligence (AI) will cost people their jobs it could also be used to improve lives.
Jean de Fougerolles, Managing Partner in Ascension Ventures and Partner in Fair By Design, said: “Technology is at a crossroads. It will automate jobs and AI will replace people but it can also be leveraged to enhance human life. It’s true when people say that ‘the jobs that your children will do haven’t even been invented yet’. Technology can be used to leverage a whole new economy.”
Peter Briffett, CEO of Wagestream, agreed: “AI will change the world. When it comes to the labour market, computers and robots will automate things and take people’s jobs. AI needs to be regulated because it’s moving at such a pace. There needs to be some form of understanding of how it’s affecting people.”
They were speaking at an event on Monday, hosted by the Social Market Foundation with the Barrow Cadbury Trust, entitled Ripped Off By Robots?
The event discussed a number of ways in which people on low incomes were or might be affected by new technology.
Labour MP Seema Malhotra said 1.3 million people in the UK did not have bank accounts and she said this meant they were unable to benefit from online banking or direct debits, which meant they were paying more for services than others.
Mr de Fougerolles said people on low incomes in the UK paid on average £490 a year more than their compatriots because of problems with bad credit, lack of insurance, online access and high energy bills – which adds up to £3.8 billion a year.
He said: “If you’re not online you are missing out on price comparison sites. We are aiming to cut the poverty premium by reducing fuel poverty and reducing these market inefficiencies. The poverty premium is particularly unfair and galling.”
Mr Briffett said his company had invented an app which allowed people to access their pay in real time, so they could access it before their monthly payday and avoid taking payday loans.
He said: “55 percent of families in this country do not have £250 in savings and most payday loans are around the £250 mark, although people end up paying back around £600. At the moment the only recourse is to these predatory payday loans.”
Mr Briffett said many payday loan companies used algorithms to work out where their customers were likely to work, what TV channels they watched and how to target them with payday loan adverts.
Mrs Malhotra said a Labour government would no doubt want to protect customers and those on low incomes but she said: “Intervening in the technology space is difficult.”
She said one of the issues which troubled her was the amount of people who still did not have access to reliable broadband at home, including a “pocket” of 1,000 people in her London constituency.
“These are people who therefore can’t work from home. They can’t study at home – be that university, college or school – and they can’t access online facilities, like registering with their GPs or accessing council services,” Mrs Malhotra said.