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Call for UK to make ethics central to AI development

The House of Lords report also recommends changes in how data is collected and used

The code sets out that AI is developed for the common good and benefit of humanity
The code sets out that AI is developed for the common good and benefit of humanity

The UK has a “unique opportunity” to shape artificial intelligence (AI) positively for the public’s benefit and to lead the international community in AI’s ethical development, “rather than passively accept its consequences”, said Lord Clement-Jones, chairman of the House of Lords Select Committee on AI.


The Lords is urging the UK to put ethics at the centre of AI’s development and use and his comments follow publication of its report, Artificial Intelligence, AI in the UK: ready, willing and able?. The report recommends the establishment of a cross-sector AI code which can be adopted nationally, and internationally.


“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,” said Lord Clement-Jones.


He 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.”


The report recommends that individuals have greater personal control over their data, and the way in which it is used. It says the way in which data is gathered and accessed needs to change, so that everyone can have “fair and reasonable access to data”, while citizens and consumers can protect their privacy and personal agency.


This means the use of established concepts, such as open data, ethics advisory boards and data protection legislation, and developing new frameworks and mechanisms, such as data portability and data trusts.


The report also wants the Government to be bold and use “targeted procurement” to provide a boost to AI development and deployment. “It could encourage the development of solutions to public policy challenges through speculative investment. There have been impressive advances in AI for healthcare, which the NHS should capitalise on,” says the report.


The Committee has suggested five principles for the code:

  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.


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