Neil Bennett | City A.M. Notebook


The Notebook: Neil Bennett on replacing himself with AI


What to look out for at the AI Summit, from Elon to lip service


I, or artificial intelligence, has been the talk of the town for quite some time now. The technology that was once confined to the realm of science fiction is now a part of our daily lives, reshaping the way we work, communicate, and even play. It’s a phenomenon that’s been both captivating and perplexing, and it seems only fitting to embark on a journey to explore its evolution and the impact it’s had on our world. So, grab your favorite beverage and join me as we delve into the ever-evolving world of AI…

I would like to point out, now, that the above prose was not written by me, but by a machine. I asked Chat GPT to write an article on AI ‘in the style of Neil Bennett’ and it came up with this bilge. I sincerely hope that my articles are not as cliché-ridden and twee as the above, that I never use words like beverage and certainly do not spell ‘favorite’ like that.

So, for anyone worried that ChatGPT and its AI buddies are going to make them obsolete, there is hope left.
On that subject, today is the start of Rishi Sunak’s AI Summit at Bletchley Park. There has been a lot of chat around this event (some of it even from humans) but for me the most important aspects of the event are:

We are hosting it in the UK. Britain still has serious convening power in new industries. The summit is bringing together a host of global power brokers, from Elon Musk to US Vice President Kamala Harris. So much for the Remainer dirge that Britain wouldn’t matter on a world stage after Brexit. We do.

The summit underlines the leading role that Britain is playing in the development of AI, which surveys say will be worth $10bn to the UK economy this year, rising to $26.5bn by 2030. Deepmind, the pioneering AI business, was founded in the UK and its headquarters is only 200 yards from my office. Similarly, OpenAI has chosen London for its first international office and R&D centre.

Don’t expect too much to come out of the conference. There are too many discordant voices in the room to reach any real consensus. I predict some limply-worded communique in which governments agree to be vigilant around the security and economic dangers posed by AI.

The most important fact about the conference is that it is happening at all and that governments and business are alive to the enormous impact that AI is already having. For all that I hope the delegates recognise the enormous benefits that AI offers and not just the risks. We can’t put the genie back in the bottle, so we need to make the most of it.


Cling Slump


The wheels have well and truly come off the cycling market – if you can forgive the awful generative AI-style pun. Even for a cycling fanatic like me (see bragging rights photo of me at the Olympic Velodrome last week) it was obvious that the boom couldn’t last. I was still stunned when I read last week that Wiggle – the go-to online retailer for bikes and bike bits – had collapsed into administration.

Wiggle’s most recent accounts make grim reading. Sales were down 30 per cent and while there was some cost-cutting it was nowhere near enough.

The accounts for the parent company are even worse, showing an almost heroic loss of £97m on sales of £252m. Despite it all, there is a good business here for someone prepared to do the surgery. Wiggle is the leader in its market with a loyal following.


What I’ve been reading this week


It seems a season when all my friends are publishing books. Last week Chris Blackhurst released
The World’s Biggest Cash Machine, a fascinating read about Manchester United and the Glazer family.
Chris is an enormously talented writer and could make a plastic bag factory sound interesting, so this is a gripping tale, full of insight. Definitely one for the Man U fan on your Christmas list.