AI ethics call by UK House of Lords after Cambridge Analytica scandal

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Palace of Westminster. Image: Shahid Khan/Shutterstock

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UK urged to take an ethical lead in AI.

The UK must take a leading role in the development of artificial intelligence (AI) ethics and regulation to prevent similar scandals to Cambridge Analytica from emerging.

That’s the view of a House of Lords select committee report on AI, entitled: AI in the UK: Ready, willing and able?

‘An ethical approach ensures the public trusts this technology and sees the benefits of using it. It will also prepare them to challenge its misuse’
– LORD CLEMENT-JONES

The report stresses the need for AI to be used for the common good.

It serves as a moral reaction in the UK to the fact that at least two organisations with operations on its home soil, as well as Facebook, were engaged in the gathering and manipulation of personal data on an industrial scale.

Indeed, it is a sobering reflection on the likelihood that that data on 87m people worldwide could have been used to swing elections and referenda, including the US presidential election of Donald Trump and the Brexit vote in 2016.

Last week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg apologised before US Congress for how third-party apps were able to gather such amounts of data.

Making AI safe

Since we are only at the dawn of the AI age, scandals such as Cambridge Analytica may only be the tip of the iceberg.

“AI is not without its risks, and the adoption of the principles proposed by the committee will help to mitigate these,” said committee chair Lord Clement-Jones.

“An ethical approach ensures the public trusts this technology and sees the benefits of using it. It will also prepare them to challenge its misuse,” he added.

The committee recommends five ethical principles that should be applied across sectors as well as nationally and internationally:

  • AI should be developed for the common good and benefit of humanity
  • AI should operate on principles of intelligibility and fairness
  • AI should not be used to diminish the data rights or privacy of individuals, families and communities
  • All citizens should have the right to be educated to enable them to flourish mentally, emotionally and economically alongside AI
  • AI should never be vested with the autonomous power to hurt, destroy or deceive human beings

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com