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House of Lords wants the UK to be leader on AI ethics

Matteo Natalucci Published 16 April 2018

Public inquiry into development and use of artificial intelligence says UK can lead way in development of AI as long as it takes an ethical approach to the technology


The House of Lords has today released a report reviewing the use and development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the UK calling the government to encourage the wider adoption of AI solutions and to put ethics at the heart of the industry's development. 

The report, dubbed “AI in the UK: Ready, Willing and Able?” makes several recommendations on ethical behaviour, which the Committee believes will enable the UK to take a "unique position" to help shape the development of AI on the world stage.

The committee has now proposed a set of principles that will be used to form the basis of a code of practice, something it hopes will be embraced internationally.

Its five principles are:

  1. Artificial intelligence should be developed for the common good and benefit of humanity.
  2. Artificial intelligence should operate on principles of intelligibility and fairness.
  3. Artificial intelligence should not be used to diminish the data rights or privacy of individuals, families, or communities.
  4. All citizens should have the right to be educated to enable them to flourish mentally, emotionally, and economically alongside artificial intelligence.
  5. The autonomous power to hurt, destroy or deceive human beings should never be vested in artificial intelligence.

The committee believes that these principles should form the basis of a cross-sector AI code, which can be adopted both nationally and internationally.

The committee recognised that the UK is ideally positioned to become a world leader in the development of AI.

The Committee’s 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.”

He added, “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,” Clement-Jones said.

Clement-Jones added, “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 committee recommends that the government should work with major government-sponsored AI organisations in other leading AI countries to convene a global summit to establish international norms for the design, development, regulation and deployment of artificial intelligence.

The report also places strong emphasis on the UK’s role as an ethical leader in the AI world, calling for the creation of tools that can be used to identify algorithmic bias and make it easier for people to understand how AI systems explain how reach their decisions.

The committee further recommends the responsibility of regulating AI systems should fall to existing regulators such as Ofcom, Ofgem and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

The report warned that as AI decreases the demand for some jobs, the government and industry would have to shoulder the responsibility of retraining people throughout their careers.

The report also calls for the government to take urgent steps to help foster “the creation of authoritative tools and systems for auditing and testing training datasets to ensure they are representative of diverse populations, and to ensure that when used to train AI systems they are unlikely to lead to prejudicial decisions”.


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