Lords: UK can lead world in AI but ethical approach is key

DataIQ News

The UK has the opportunity to be a world leader in the development of artificial intelligence - a move which could deliver a major boost to the economy for years to come -  yet the Government must make personal data protection a priority and ensure ethics are at the centre of the development of the emerging technology.

That is the conclusion of a new report by the House of Lords Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence, "AI in the UK: Ready, Willing and Able?", which makes a number of recommendations for the future of the industry.

Peers state that AI needs to be developed for the common good and that the “autonomous power to hurt, destroy or deceive human beings should never be vested in artificial intelligence”.

They argue that the UK has a unique opportunity to shape AI positively for the public’s benefit and to lead the international community in AI’s ethical development, rather than passively accept its consequences.

The report also stresses that AI should also not be used to diminish the data rights of individuals, and people “should have the right to be educated to enable them to flourish mentally, emotionally and economically alongside artificial intelligence”.

The report states: “Many jobs will be enhanced by AI, many will disappear and many new, as yet unknown jobs, will be created. Significant Government investment in skills and training will be necessary to mitigate the negative effects of AI. Retraining will become a lifelong necessity.”

Committee chairman Lord Clement-Jones said: "The UK has a unique opportunity to shape AI positively for the public's benefit and to lead the international community in AI's ethical development, rather than passively accept its consequences.

"The UK contains leading AI companies, a dynamic academic research culture, and a vigorous start-up ecosystem as well as a host of legal, ethical, financial and linguistic strengths. We should make the most of this environment, but it is essential that ethics take centre stage in AI's development and use.

"AI is not without its risks and the adoption of the principles proposed by the Committee will help to mitigate these. An ethical approach ensures the public trusts this technology and sees the benefits of using it. It will also prepare them to challenge its misuse.

"We want to make sure that this country remains a cutting-edge place to research and develop this exciting technology. However, start-ups can struggle to scale up on their own. Our recommendations for a growth fund for SMEs and changes to the immigration system will help to do this.

"We've asked whether the UK is ready, willing and able to take advantage of AI. With our recommendations, it will be."

The report says transparency in the technology is needed, and an AI Council should establish a voluntary mechanism to inform consumers when AI is being used to make significant or sensitive decisions.

It states: “It is not currently clear whether existing liability law will be sufficient when AI systems malfunction or cause harm to users, and clarity in this area is needed. The committee recommends that the Law Commission investigate this issue.”