With concern about artificial intelligence reaching fever pitch, we spoke to local experts about what the rise of AI could mean for the future of High Wycombe. 

ChatGPT, a ground-breaking software that can hold full-length conversations and produce works of literature, is currently the most powerful - and popular - form of artificial intelligence in the world.

As the capabilities of this sophisticated tech continues to grow, however, experts in the field have begun sounding their concerns about what it could mean for the future of the human race. 

An open letter signed by industry heavyweights last week warned that "mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority", and highlighted the havoc the technology could wreak on humanity should it exceed us in power and intellect. 

When it comes to the effects of AI on the future of our towns and cities, however, the experts we spoke to expressed cautious optimism about the uses it might have in transforming our daily lives.

"We do have a fear that this will result in extinction or the destruction of mankind, but when we're talking about that, we're talking about a very specific kind of AI," said Kevin Campbell-Karn, deputy head of the school for human and social sciences at Buckinghamshire New University.

"Artificial general intelligence (AGI) is the most powerful form of the software, where AI is potentially becoming more powerful than a human being."

Towns like High Wycombe can hugely benefit from tapping into this kind of ultra-intelligent tech, he says, so long as it is regulated and only made available for certain functions (something that is, worryingly, not currently the case).

"Traffic light control and increasingly intelligent smart meters are both really useful ways of applying AI to things that are common problems in Wycombe.

"AI-controlled traffic lights would be able to constantly change based on the weather, the time of day, school closures, local events and more. It would massively reduce traffic and lower our emissions.

"Smart meters too can feed into this more sustainable and efficient future for High Wycombe. The basic function of AI is to predict what's going to happen next and to stay one step ahead - so making use of that to improve the town's infrastructure can only be a good thing."

Peter Strachan, Buckinghamshire Council's cabinet member for planning and regeneration, added that due to the pace of technological change, it is difficult to predict exactly what an AI future looks like for Wycombe.

Some of the ways he expects the town could be transformed, though, include improved public services, the creation of more businesses and a wider range of job opportunities.

"With several Bucks businesses already carrying out research in this technology and student spin-off businesses emerging from our universities, I think we are well positioned to take advantage of these changes.

"What we know is that AI and automation will undoubtedly continue to transform the way we live and work over the coming decades.

"We can't know what challenges may emerge from this but our aim at all times will be to ensure that High Wycombe and Buckinghamshire as a whole make a smooth transition towards a more technologically advanced future."