Tuesday 16 April at 19:30 (UK time)


UK launch of ‘The Digital World towards 2040’

Speaker: Ajit Jaokar, European Internet Forum Rapporteur
Comments: Simon Staffell, Director Government Affairs, Microsoft
Chair: Alex Boyd, Director, Ideas Network 2030.

Scroll down for more information or click below to jump to specific sections
> Introduction
> Message from Pilar del Castillo MEP
> Meeting summary
> Speakers bios


This special event held in London was the UK launch of ‘The Digital World towards 2040’ which is an important new report which has been developed in collaboration with experts from both sides of the Atlantic. This London launch took place only a few days after the European launch in Brussels and we were pleased to welcome Ajit Jaokar, University of Oxford & European Internet Forum Rapporteur, who presented the findings from the report to a selected UK audience of younger generation and close supporters of the Ideas Network 2030. Simon Staffell, Director Government Affairs, Microsoft responded to Ajit’s presentation and the session was chaired by Alex Boyd, Director of the Ideas Network 2030.

Click here to read full report

Message from Pilar del Castillo MEP

Meeting summary

The roundtable began with presenting the key findings from the European Internet Forum’s report “Digital World Towards 2040”. The central paradigm proposed is ‘Intelligent Autonomy’ where machines acquire enough intelligence to collaborate semi-autonomously with humans under some human agency and oversight.

Three markers for the development of artificial general intelligence (AGI) were highlighted – natural language understanding, reasoning ability, and physical embodiment in robots. The potential social and economic impacts of AGI, including changing the social contract, were emphasised.

Breaking down the AI technology stack into components like hardware, cloud infrastructure, models, and applications, opportunities and responsibilities were noted for companies at each layer to provide equitable access. AI governance frameworks, geopolitical considerations like authoritarian regimes potentially misusing the technology, and the transformative potential of AI for scientific research were all key topics to consider.

The Q&A covered a wide range of subjects:

– Potential risks to democracy and elections from AI misinformation/disinformation campaigns, and efforts by tech companies to detect and mitigate these risks.
– The “black box” problem of lack of explainability in large language models.
– Ethical concerns around AI increasing efficiencies in areas like insurance pricing that could reinforce societal biases.
– The importance of developing AI skills and access to democratize the technology across society to avoid worsening inequality.
– Regulatory divergences between the EU and UK’s approaches to governing AI.
– Government’s comparative advantages and where to prioritize public investments in the AI stack (e.g. research vs infrastructure).
– The need for a holistic, ambitious national strategy for AI education, skills development and accessibility across society.

Overall, the discussion highlighted the immense potential of AI tempered by daunting societal challenges around equitable access, ethical application, governance frameworks and workforce preparedness that will require coordinated efforts across industry, government and academia.

> Back to top

Speakers bios

Ajit Jaokar’s work spans research, entrepreneurship, and academia relating to Artificial Intelligence (AI) with Cyber-Physical systems, He is the course director of the course: Artificial Intelligence: Cloud and Edge Implementations at the University of Oxford. He is a visiting fellow in Engineering Sciences at the University of Oxford. He is also working on a book to teach AI using mathematical foundations at the high school level.

Dr Simon Staffell is Director of Government Affairs at Microsoft, where he addresses a range of public policy issues related to technology and innovation and has been closely involved in work on AI policy and governance issues with UK and other governments over the past two years. He is a visiting Research Fellow at Kings College London and the RUSI think tank. Simon previously served in the UK government, holding senior appointments in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Home Office and Cabinet Office, and postings in Cairo and Washington DC. He was awarded his PhD in politics from Sheffield University in 2010 and was previously an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University in Washington DC.

Alex Boyd is a Director at Strand Partners, a consultancy based in London. He formerly worked as a senior civil servant and special adviser in UK Government as well as in the European Parliament. Alex is also a Director of the Ideas Network 2030.

> Back to top