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Brexit "chaos" threatening progress of technological change in the UK

The mayor of London warns that the ongoing Brexit discussions are resulting in the Government side-lining preparations for the impact of rapid technological change.

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London is a leading destination for AI and has been adopted in a range of services
London is a leading destination for AI and has been adopted in a range of services

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has warned that "Brexit chaos" has resulted in the Government side-lining preparations for the potential impact of rapid technological change on society.

 

He has called on the next prime minister to give the artificial intelligence (AI) revolution the attention it deserves, with a renewed focus on public understanding and trust.

 

London Tech Week

 

Khan was speaking at CogX, an event hosted by AI firm CognitionX during London Tech Week 2019, which runs this week until 14 June. The UK capital is hosting a festival of live events across the city, showcasing and celebrating the best of technology.

 

London is already a leading destination for AI, being home to more than 750 AI firms, which it claims is more than twice as many as its closest European rivals – Paris and Berlin – combined.

 

Khan, however, believes the UK should be much further ahead than it is as a country especially in educating the public, encouraging public debate and preparing for the potential impact on society. He said that as with so many other issues in recent years, Brexit seems to have resulted in the government side-lining preparations for the potential impact of AI on our society, “draining central government resource and attention” away from one of the most important debates of the day.

"There’s no question that the rise of machine learning and AI in city government – and around the world in general – raises many ethical and privacy issues"

“As mayor, I want us to continue to lead by example in London to show how we can use AI effectively and to show how it’s possible to bring the public with us, but the truth is that if we’re going to get this right, we must all work together – the AI sector as well as both local and national government.

 

“There’s no doubt that as a country we should be much further ahead than we are now – not only in terms of making sure we can make the most of what AI has to offer, but in terms of educating the public, encouraging public debate and preparing for the potential impact on our society.”

 

Transformative potential of AI

 

During LondonTech Week, the mayor will also outline how local and national government should embrace the transformative potential of AI to deliver better services, but said that we “must tread extremely carefully” given the many ethical and privacy issues that the advancement of AI raises.

 

AI has been adopted in a range of services in London, such as online chatbots offering customer services, the prioritisation of council home repairs and maintenance, traffic signalling and demand-responsive transport to ease congestion.

 

Khan wants to go much further and help London and Britain to become true world-leaders in AI in terms of development of new tech but also in ensuring it’s always beneficial, not detrimental, to our future.

“It’s crucial that we ensure we secure, rather than undermine, the confidence of local citizens. For people need to have trust in technology if we’re to make the most of it"

“A crucial part of making the most of innovation is about embracing AI’s potential and the incredible benefits it can bring to people.

 

“Whilst I’m a big advocate for cities to get engaged and motivated to make the most of tech to improve lives, we must also tread extremely carefully. There’s no question that the rise of machine learning and AI in city government – and around the world in general – raises many ethical and privacy issues.

 

“It’s crucial that we ensure we secure, rather than undermine, the confidence of local citizens. For people need to have trust in tech if we’re to make the most of it, and this is what we’re setting out to do in London.”

 

In London, AI technology is already being piloted for a wide range of uses, from drones in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to autonomous vehicle testing in Greenwich and facial recognition by the Metropolitan Police.

 

The mayor and his team at City Hall, including London’s chief digital officer, Theo Blackwell, are pushing forward on a number of fronts in this area. In March, London joined New York, Barcelona and Amsterdam in forming the Cities for Digital Rights Coalition, which commits the capital to working with other leading tech cities on developing frameworks and understanding citizens’ digital rights.

 

Blackwell is also working on ‘a new deal for data’ looking at how to improve data-sharing to tackle the city’s biggest challenges.

 

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