Lords to probe ethics of artificial intelligence

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The House of Lords Select Committee on artificial intelligence (AI) has called for academia, industry, technologists and the general public to have their say on the ethical, social and economic impact of advances in AI.

The committee, which was appointed at the end of June 2017, will begin hearing oral evidence in the autumn, and must report by 31 March 2018.

“This inquiry comes at a time when artificial intelligence is increasingly seizing the attention of industry, policymakers and the general public,” said committee chair and Liberal Democrat peer Lord Clement-Jones.

“The Committee wants to use this inquiry to understand what opportunities exist for society in the development and use of artificial intelligence, as well as what risks there might be.

“We are looking to be pragmatic in our approach, and want to make sure our recommendations to government and others will be practical and sensible.

There are significant questions to address relevant to both the present and the future, and we want to help inform the answers to them,” he said. “To do this, we need the help of the widest range of people and organisations.”

Although AI is very much on the front foot at this point in time when it comes to capturing the popular imagination, many hurdles still need to be overcome before it can be adopted on a widespread basis.

Concerns around security and ethics are particularly pronounced. In 2016, a report by the UK government’s chief scientific officer Mark Walport said that guaranteeing transparency and accountability will be critical – particularly from a government standpoint, as how AI is adopted and regulated could have major consequences for society.

To this end, the Lords have set out a number of questions on which they would like input. These include how the general public can be prepared for widespread adoption of AI, and the impact on everyday life, jobs, education and skills – as well as democracy, cyber security, privacy and data ownership; how AI can best be managed so it does not benefit one group in society over others; which industries are set to benefit most from AI, what barriers exist to its adoption; how to avoid data-based monopolies; the role of the government in supporting AI; and ethical issues around privacy, consent, safety, diversity and transparency.

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