The field of AI is changing rapidly – and George Farrer has made it his business to keep up. It isn’t easy. He spends around an hour each day browsing press releases, trawling through academic papers and scrolling Twitter, the better to sift and scrutinise the latest developments for the benefit of his colleagues in Westminster. It might not be the most glamorous aspect of his role as Head of Parliament Relations at the think tank Big Innovation Centre, but it’s central to his promotion of the technology’s potential — the bread and butter of his weekly discussions with MPs. “AI is sort of on everyone’s lips at the moment,” says Farrer, “especially within parliament.”
Farrer manages the All-Party Parliamentary Group on AI. APPGs are informal groups representing MPs’ and peers’ interests, covering everything from vaping and veterans, to the visual arts and vaccinations. Although they have to be chaired by MPs and Lords – in the case of the AI group, that’s the Rt. Hon. Stephen Metcalfe (Con) and Lord Clement-Jones (Lib-Dem) – they’re often managed or funded by private organisations and think-tanks like the Big Innovation Centre. They hold no official status within Parliament, but advocates say they’re helpful for raising attention on under-discussed issues and building cross-party campaigns for policy change — even though some transparency campaigners say they’re insufficiently well-regulated.