Could we? Should we? Evolving the ethics of AI

Posted on: August 22, 2019 by Kulveer Ranger

We are at a critical time in the advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AI). While its potential is still being understood, what we do know is that AI will shape human progress in every field, from health and social change, to the environment and defense.

Balance of power

The sheer power of this technology is also its key challenge: the future of AI is not just about what we can do with it, but what we should do with it, and about who will control its power. Given the pace and scale of innovation, the debate about the ethics of AI is one of the most interesting and urgent in the public domain. If the UK is to fully realize the social and economic benefits of AI, there are a range of important legal and social questions that now need to be addressed.

Current public perceptions of AI are, at best, mixed. Shaped to a large extent by concerns about the effects of automation on jobs, much of the fear about AI stems from the unknown. Algorithms, for many, equate to the dark arts. What’s more, public opinion about AI versus the collective potential benefit from AI is not always aligned: applying AI in clinical research and healthcare, for example, may not be popular at this point, but it could save many lives.

Setting the frameworks

In recognition of AI’s many benefits, the Government has already taken steps to ensure the UK is best positioned to take advantage. The Government published the AI Sector Deal worth £1 billion in April 2018 with the aim of creating a blueprint for how to prepare UK businesses and citizens for AI. This strategy is bearing fruit. Research by the Mayor of London has found that London is ahead of New York, Paris and Berlin as the preferred location for AI companies to do business.

Yet for organizations, the policy and legal frameworks for applying AI have yet to be developed; as a result, technology leaders and data scientists are, in the main, setting their own boundaries. It is now time for a coherent public debate to create an evolving set of rules and principles for the use of AI. This debate needs to be informed by AI leaders and experts, with the involvement of politicians, regulators and policymakers. In this way we can establish the policy frameworks and new public bodies to then work in tandem with those who will design and deliver the tools and technologies that will shape our future world.

Progressing the conversation

This debate needs to be in combination with greater public awareness and education. Uninformed fear of AI may stifle innovation across the public and private sectors; and everyone in society must be given the opportunity to explore what the future of AI will mean. Concerns and fears must be heard and addressed, with promulgation of the positive role that machine learning and AI can play in delivering changes that people across our society really want.

As we move from the ‘pioneering’ to the ‘application’ era of AI, there is a need to explore how to make lives better through AI and ensure that the advantages it creates are shared across different demographics, sectors and organizations. If the UK gets this right, we will have a framework not just for deriving wide-ranging benefits for our society and our economy, but also for helping to lead and shape AI as a force for good across the world.

Read the full Digital Vision for AI paper to learn more

Digital Vision for Digital Britain

This article is part of the Atos Digital Vision for Digital Britain opinion paper. At a time where the pace of technological change has never been so fast, we explore how Atos applies cutting-edge technologies to prepare our clients for a new digital era.

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About Kulveer Ranger
SVP, Head of Strategy, Marketing, Comms & Public Affairs, Northern Europe & APAC
Kulveer Ranger is SVP, Head of Strategy, Marketing, Comms & Public Affairs, Northern Europe & APAC at Atos, a global leader in digital transformation with 111,000 employees in 71 countries. He has been a leading figure in the development and communication of innovate, technology led services and has a unique track record of working in politics, the public and private sectors over the last twenty years. This includes having worked on the delivery of the London Oystercard, and four years working for the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, leading the transport and environment briefs and establishing the Digital London Office. His time at City Hall included preparing London for the 2012 Olympics, making the case for Crossrail, leading on ground breaking initiatives such as the cycle hire scheme and Tech City. He has sat on various boards including Transport for London, Bristol 2015 European Green Capital City and is currently on the board of techUK. Kulveer is an international public speaker, a regular broadcaster for TV and radio and a passionate Tottenham Hotspur FC fan.

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