In a groundbreaking move, members of the British government have reportedly delegated their traditional task of reading policy papers and reports to an experimental artificial intelligence (AI), according to Conservative MP Alex Burghart. Speaking at a conference in London, Burghart revealed that an “AI red box” now filters and processes documents, highlighting connections between papers and providing summaries, potentially transforming into the institutional memory of government departments.
The AI system, currently in its experimental phase, aims to streamline the workload of government officials by automating the reading and analysis of policy documents. Burghart emphasised the potential for increased efficiency and institutional memory as the technology is fine-tuned over time.
The extent to which AI can comprehend complex policy issues remains to be determined. A previous government-developed platform, similar to ChatGPT, encountered problems, providing inaccurate information around 20% of the time and displaying unexpected responses in French. Burghart did not confirm whether the AI red box shares any code with the failed chatbot.
Burghart mentioned that he and another unnamed minister, along with senior civil servant Alex Chisolm, use the system to manage their workloads. Plans are underway to secure funding in the spring to expand the use of this technology across the entire government, potentially revolutionising administrative processes.
Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Olney expressed scepticism, ridiculing the idea of MPs and ministers delegating essential tasks to AI. She emphasised the importance of policymakers engaging directly with casework and policy analysis, suggesting that reliance on AI could harm effective governance.
While AI adoption may enhance efficiency for some, concerns arise over potential job redundancies. Burghart acknowledged that AI could automate “thousands” of fraud-detection jobs in the civil service, possibly reducing the overall size of the civil service. These developments align with global discussions on the impact of AI on employment, with the International Monetary Fund warning that AI could replace around 40% of jobs globally.
As the British government navigates the integration of AI into administrative processes, questions persist regarding the technology’s capabilities, potential pitfalls, and broader implications for the workforce.