Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean AI's not after you

Brit telco BT's digital boss asks people 'how did horses feel when cars were invented? They didn't complain or go on strike'

BT’s chief digital innovation officer wants the world to stop moaning about how cuddly AI is going to put pesky humans out of work because horses "didn't complain" when cars were invented.

In an interview with Raconteur this month, Harmeen Mehta, who BT parachuted into the newly created role in 2021, was discussing how media can hone in on the negatives outcomes of AI.

“Society changes and jobs morph,” she told the publication. “I don’t know how horses felt when the car was invented, but they didn’t complain that they were put out of a job; they didn’t go on strike. It’s part of evolution. Some jobs will change, some new ones will be created and some will no longer be needed”.

“The media here is creating a level of paranoia that’s going to paralyze this country - it creates more emotional problems for me than I do for myself…. I’ve spent the past two years trying to convince my company that human intelligence and artificial intelligence can work together.”

A BT spokesperson sent us a statement:

“Harmeen was using a metaphor to stretch a point. In the past, during periods of technological change, people acquired new skills and ultimately new jobs were created. This is something we are keen to enable as we embrace human and artificial intelligence working alongside each other at BT Group in the future. We will work closely with our union partners in this AI transition, as we always have, particularly over the coming years as this change picks up momentum.

“In the context of AI, we are building upskilling into our programmes, via our MyCampus platform, to ensure that we bring our colleagues up to speed to take advantage of the technological revolution and place them at the forefront of this new AI age.”

It might not have escaped Reg readers that BT is itself going through something of a transformation that involves embracing AI, the cold hand of which could be felt by thousands of employees.

CEO Philip Jansen said in May: “For a company like BT there is a huge opportunity to use AI to be more efficient… There is a sort of 10,000 reduction from that sort of automated digitization; we will be a huge beneficiary of AI.”

TechMarketView chairman Richard Holway, who is dipping his toe into retirement, quipped: “So horses just accepted being replaced by cars and just got on with it?”

The veteran analyst said he’d asked ChatGPT how many horses are in the world today and was told it was half the volume before the prevalence of the motor car. He said that “rather than go on strike they went to the slaughterhouse! So that bit is probably not such a stupid analogy after all.”

The notion that jobs are at risk from AI isn’t a dystopian vision of the future sketched out by journalists, Elon Musk delivered a chilling verdict earlier this month when he said “no job is needed” in the future.

Holway has seen predictions of doom many times over the decades, “eg, with the advent of computing.”

“It will NOT happen. Whatever, there will be new jobs for people and, anyway, almost everybody likes to be gainfully employed,” he added. ®

More about


Send us news

Other stories you might like