We aren't getting ready for the AI revolution: That needs to change, and fast

A 'Commission on Artificial Intelligence' should be established to examine social and ethical dilemmas posed by the rise of intelligent machines, says a report.
Written by Danny Palmer, Senior Writer

The emergence of AI could lead to dilemnas the society isn't prepared for.

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Artificial intelligence has the potential to fundamentally alter how we live and work but government lacks any sort of coherent strategy for responding to the social and ethical dilemmas posed by the rise of intelligent machines.

It's for that reason a 'Commission on Artificial Intelligence' should be established at the Alan Turing Institute to examine the social, ethical, and legal implications of the rapid recent developments in AI and potential developments in future, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee has declared.

The recommendation comes following an investigation into how the workplace and wider society will be affected by the rise of robotics and artificial intelligence. The findings are set out in the a 46-page report, which states that the government needs to come up with an AI strategy because currently it's not taking any responsibility.

"Government leadership in the fields of robotics and AI has been lacking," says acting chair of the Science and Technology Committee, Dr Tania Mathias MP.

It's by establishing a Commission on Artificial intelligence that the government should take charge of establishing principles for governance, development, and application of AI, the committee says. It noted that the commission should be closely coordinated with the Council of Data Ethics, which is being setup following a previous report by MPs.

Membership of the AI commission shouldn't only be made up of experts in that field, rather the report states that it should include those with expertise in law, social science, and philosophy as well as computer scientists, natural scientists, and engineers. It's also recommended that membership should be drawn from industry, NGOs, and the public in order to establish a programme of wide ranging public dialogue.

The committee -- which took evidence from a range of experts -- also points out that the government must put a much greater focus on adjusting education and training systems in order to allow people to adapt and thrive as new forms of technology arise, and criticises the government for not doing enough in this area.

"It is disappointing that the government still has not published its digital strategy nor set out its plans for equipping the future workforce with the digital skills it needs to flourish," said the report.

While a group of companies including Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft, have come together in order to research AI and provide guidelines on the technology, the committee warns that the government can't just sit back and wait for them to do all the work, but rather needs to proactively take a role.

"While it is encouraging that the [private] sector is thinking about the risks and benefits of AI, this does not absolve the government of its responsibilities," said Mathias.

The report into artificial intelligence and robots has been welcomed by techUK, which also urges government to provide more leadership in fields relating to AI and digital skills for the future.

"We have a great opportunity here in the UK to help to define the future, especially give our global leadership in the development of AI," says Sue Daley, head of big data and analytics at techUK. "The committee is right to call for greater government leadership in addressing the digital skills gap. This is one of the most urgent policy challenges we face today."

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