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AI and robotics

UK government thinking needs a reboot says Select Committee

27 October 2017

The UK government has been slow to recognise both the opportunities and threats posed by Artificial Intelligence and robotics, a committee of MPs has said. It has called for the UK to focus much more deeply on the issue.

Dr Tania Mathias, the committee’s acting chair said “Government leadership in the fields of robotics and AI has been lacking.” And she added: “It is vital that careful scrutiny of the ethical, legal and societal ramifications of artificially intelligent systems begins now. Not only would this help to ensure that the UK remains focused on developing ‘socially beneficial’ AI systems, it would also represent an important step towards fostering public dialogue about, and trust in, such systems over time.”

The Commons science and technology committee has called for a ‘Commission on Artificial Intelligence’ to provide global leadership on the legal, social and ethical implications of AI. It said that the Commission should be based at the based at the Alan Turing Institute, the national centre for data science and that its membership should be broad and include people with expertise in law, social science and philosophy as well as scientists, mathematicians and engineers. 

US technology companies including Google and Amazon have formed a Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society to carry out research into AI and ethics but the committee said: “While it is encouraging that the sector is thinking about the risks and benefits of AI, this does not absolve the government of its responsibilities.”

Amongst the committee’s recommendations are the need to “reskill” and “upskill” people to address the impact that AI will have on jobs to ensure that the future workforce has the digital skills required.  It also says that as AI is advancing rapidly, ethical issues including verification and validation, decision-making transparency, accountability, privacy and safety will need “effective governance.”