House of Lords Investigating AI ‘Ethics’

With the advancement of artificial intelligence, the House of Lords Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence (AI) is calling on academics, experts, industry insiders, and the public for feedback on the social, economic, and ethical implications of the technology.

Information and Evidence Gathering

Appointed by House of Lords on 29 June 2017, the committee has been tasked to gather evidence and prepare a report by 31 March 2018, and will start listening to statements of evidence in the autumn.

The committee are encouraging concerned sectors to provide their views on how AI may be or has been affecting them. Evidence will be mainly gathered using a questionnaire.

Pragmatic Approach

The committee aims to use the feedback to generate pragmatic solutions to issues arising from uses of AI. It is thought that, by gathering real-world opinions from many different groups, including the public, the committee’s recommendations to the government will have greater value.

Timely Inquiry

From information dissemination e.g. by news-bots, to customer service chat-bots, AI is slowly taking over many of the manual tasks that are usually done by people.

Many commentators have pointed to the danger posed to jobs by AI. Back in March, for example, a report by PwC showed that over 30% of UK jobs could be lost to automation by the year 2030.

Liberal Democrat peer Lord Clement-Jones (committee chair) has said that the inquiry into AI and its impact will give a better understanding as to what opportunities exist in the use of AI, and what real threats it may pose.

Extreme Prediction

One of the more extreme comments about AI’s impact in the future came this month from Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk who reportedly described AI as a “fundamental risk to the existence of civilisation.”

Security and Ethical Concerns

In 2016, the UK government’s chief scientific officer Mark Walport pointed out in a report that it is critical to guarantee transparency and accountability as to how AI will be used and regulated.

It is thought therefore, that this inquiry will help contribute to a wider understanding of the ethical and security issues facing us with the continued growth of AI.

The Lords Want to Know

Through this inquiry, the House of the Lords Committee on AI will encourage the public to think about AI, how they can prepare for its widespread use, and what impact it could have on their everyday life, jobs, education and skills, democracy, cyber security, privacy, and data ownership.

It is hoped that the inquiry will also give a better view of what industries will benefit from AI, what obstacles will need to be overcome using AI;, what role the government could play in supporting AI, and, what the issues are around ethics, privacy, consent, safety, diversity, and transparency.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

AI is already being used and its use and role in the automation of many aspects of our lives is set to grow. Although research last month from US CRM and strategic applications company Pegasystems indicated that trust levels in AI were high (60% of UK people would use more AI if it saved them time and money), there are clear concerns about the threats that another intelligent force could pose to us. It makes sense, therefore, that we should get a good understanding now of the issues surrounding AI while it is still in its relatively early stage of development.

Most businesses are likely to be affected by some aspect of automation e.g. software or mechanical, in the near future, either themselves of through suppliers and stakeholders. There is an inevitability that AI and robotics will alter what jobs look like in the future, and will take some jobs away from humans, but it is also important to remember that they could provide huge advantages and opportunities for businesses and their customers.

Workers can try to insulate themselves from the worst effects of automation by seeking more education / lifelong learning, and by trying to remain positive towards and adapting to changes.

How much AI automation and what kind of AI automation individual businesses adopt will, of course, depend upon a cost / benefit analysis compared to human workers, and whether automation is appropriate and is acceptable to their customers.