House of Lords Issues Positive AI Statement


When the likes of Elon Musk, Nick Bostrom, and the late Stephen Hawking all separately express concerns about the future of AI, it might be a good idea to make a note, at minimum. Happily, the UK, by way of the 2017 House of Lords AI Report, has made a note. The British government will even be honouring some of the recommendations in the report.

Whether this is a Bandaid response or a viable solution to concerns raised by some of the greatest minds of our time remains to be seen. However, if the UK does implement strategic responses based on the report, they will be setting a global precedent.

The government response encompasses an array of issues surrounding the ethics, accountability, transparency, and public trust surrounding AI. It is supported by multiple AI-specific public bodies, and crosses inter-departmental government lines.

According to statements signed by the Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, the UK’s Secretary of State for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy, “to successfully address the Grand Challenge on AI and Data outlined in the Industrial Strategy whitepaper, it is critical that trust is engendered through the actions Government takes and the institutions it creates.”

Through the Digital Charter, the future Centre for Data Ethics & Innovation, as well as the newly-founded Office for AI and the AI Council, the government claim it will work towards a ‘more constructive narrative around AI’ while ensuring that “governance measures are aligned and respond to public concerns around data-driven technologies, and address businesses’ needs for greater clarity and certainty around data use.”

The response calls for specifics such as comprehensive education for the public, specifically designed to raise awareness of how, when, and where AI is being utilised to make decisions about them. The aim is to not only promote awareness, but also to provide opt-out options.

The statement also postulates that industry should take the responsibility and ultimately the lead in consumer awareness surrounding AI. They bring up a good point, as this is possibly the strongest way to cultivate consumer confidence and trust.

This House of Lords AI Report and its response is timely as the UK government plans for the upcoming Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation, designed to address ethical data sharing as larger, more comprehensive, and higher quality data banks are developed in the UK.

Another issue highlighted by the response is the importance of explainable AI.  “We believe that the development of intelligible AI systems is a fundamental necessity if AI is to become an integral and trusted tool in our society. Whether this takes the form of technical transparency, explainability, or indeed both, will depend on the context and the stakes involved,”

The government admits that full technical transparency is not possible and may not even be desirable, and emphasises the importance of maintaining balance through the statement  “an overemphasis on transparency may be both a deterrent and is in some cases, such as deep learning, prohibitively difficult.”

Other issues addressed in the UK’s full response to the House of Lords AI Report involve data monopolies, social bias, AI financial investments, and more. The full report can be accessed here.

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