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The future of Artificial Intelligence

The future of Artificial Intelligence
4 min read

The Liberal Democrat Lords Digital Spokesperson writes ahead of a debate today following the Select Committee report: 'Artificial Intelligence AI in the UK: ready, willing and able?'

Is artificial intelligence a force for good or evil? Elon Musk, Tesla and SpaceX boss, thinks that it is more dangerous than nuclear weapons. Mark Zuckerberg, on the other hand, is “excited about all the progress here and it’s potential to make the world better”.
The House of Lords Select Committee on AI has looked beyond the eye-catching predictions – from forecasts of doom or unwavering optimism, – to consider the “economic, ethical and social implications” of this new technology. We published our report in April, and a debate on the Government’s response takes place in the Lords today.
The Committee’s central finding was that the UK has a unique opportunity to shape AI positively for the public’s benefit and to lead the world in developing ethical standards for its use. We are aware of the risks posed by the widespread use of AI, but the evidence led us to believe that these risks can be avoided or mitigated. Doing so requires us to actively ensure an ethical approach and to build public trust in this technology, rather than passively accepting its consequences.
The Liberal Democrat priorities of diversity, inclusion and fairness must apply to AI, just as they apply to the rest of society. The prejudices of the past must not be unwittingly built into automated systems – and that means both ensuring that the data we use is not biased and recruiting a diverse range of people to work on AI.
The Liberal Democrats have also long maintained that, as technology advances, the need for people to retrain and reskill will only grow. The Committee agrees: our report states that, with the advent of AI, “retraining will become a lifelong necessity”. Significant Government investment in skills and training will be vital to help workers move into the jobs of the future. The benefits of AI must not be left to accrue to some to the detriment of others.
Unsurprisingly, the Committee also highlighted the need for individuals to have greater personal control over their data – as advocated by the Liberal Democrats as part of our ‘Digital Bill of Rights’. Following the revelations about Cambridge Analytica, the public are rightly concerned about the ways in which their data is being used. Access to large quantities of data is one of the factors fuelling the current AI boom; it is essential large companies that control vast quantities of data are prevented from becoming too powerful.
The UK has all the right conditions to take the lead on AI: a dynamic academic research culture, a vigorous start-up ecosystem and a host of legal, ethical, financial and linguistic strengths.To make the most of this environment, the Committee has suggested core principles that could form the basis of a cross-sector AI Code.
Primarily, artificial intelligence should be developed for the common good and benefit of humanity. It should operate on principles of intelligibility and fairness. The rights of individuals, families and communities over their data and privacy must be protected. Everyone should have the right to an education that enables them to flourish alongside AI. And finally, AI must never be given the autonomous power to hurt, destroy or deceive human beings.
This ethical approach will help the public to trust this new technology and feel its benefits. It will also prepare people to challenge its misuse.
AI policy is in its infancy in the UK. While the Government has made a reasonable start in formulating that policy, the Liberal Democrats demand better. Ministers should act on the recommendations in this report and recognise the need to be more ambitious – both in seizing the opportunities of AI and minimising its dangers.

Lord Clement-Jones is the Liberal Democrat Lords Digital Spokesperson 

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