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The Future of AI in the UK was the subject of debate in the House of Lords on Thursday the 26th of April 2018. This followed in the context of the publication of the Select Committee’s report, “AI in the UK: Ready, WIlling, Able?”. Each section of this title was discussed in detail by the Lords and panelists. The main point spoken about during the debate was the issue of UK citizens not being willing to embrace the new AI technology being introduced into their daily lives.

The debate began with the Lords explaining the UK’s willingness and strong commitment to the progression and usage of AI, and then discussing how: employment will change with AI; they will teach people about it; they will gain people’s trust. A main point of discussion was job loss versus new job creation due to AI. As technology begins to make its way to the forefront of society and employment, we will need to be educating the population and teaching them new skills which will be necessary for this change. To succeed at introducing AI into the mainstream, the panel mentioned the importance of teaching everyone, especially the younger generation, about AI and how it works. I realise that not everyone will have the same ability I have had to comprehend the complexity of AI, yet I believe everyone should develop a basic knowledge of how it will be affecting us. In addition, I believe that the government and large companies should form relationships with the public. The bond created will allow them to regain the public’s trust and convince citizens to permit their data being used for the betterment of society.

Another issue addressed was the ongoing discussion of implementing AI into the healthcare sector. Stephen Metcalfe spoke followed by Paul Clarke, Chief Technology Officer at Ocado Limited, made an excellent point- “humans have limits to how much data they can hold, humans get tired under pressure, humans put themselves first”. The medical industry’s aim is to reduce as many health issues as they can, and AI can help us with that. Unfortunately, most people aren’t yet comfortable with the thought of being diagnosed and treated by a ‘robot’. In spite of common misconceptions, from a logical perspective Artificial Intelligence should in fact be the more secure option, as it would be able to hold all the data that has been discovered about different illnesses and be able to deduce the problem by looking at the patients symptoms- improving efficiency and positive outcomes. This solution means that bias and emotion are being removed from the decision, and it will be made purely based on facts and strict medicine. As earlier mentioned, the UK population’s views are a main restriction to this technology’s advancement. Due to popular culture and the media, the public are left with inaccurate impressions of how it works and its implications for them. They have certain illusions about the consequences of AI being incorporated into society, and are very apprehensive about the transparency of data. Transparency is the ability to easily access and work with data no matter where they are located or what application created them. In the future, data transparency needs to be everywhere. For the better of the public, there is an urge for data to be accessible to all.

The final topic discussed at the debate was whether the UK would be able to follow through with AI. For the UK to integrate Artificial Intelligence into everyday life, a balance between the law, economics, and data responsibility aspects will need to be established.  Data will need to be anonymised to protect the identity of people being used for research. If all data is to be anonymised in the future, the government will need to ensure that there is a secure system in place to preserve it.

To conclude the debate, the audience were able to ask questions to the Lords and panelists. In the audience Joanna Bryson, Associate Professor in the Department of Computing at the University of Bath, raised a very good point on accountability and transparency in relation to data. She said, “transparency is incredibly important. However, it is not always achievable and the highest goal is accountability. If we make and legislate that people are accountable for the software they build and the citizens they build for, then transparency becomes an asset that companies want to have to show diligence”.  With a background in Artificial Intelligence, ethics, and collaborative cognition as well as being a renowned feminist- Joanna has very specific views on these topics as well as the knowledge to substantiate them . For example, she believes that though it is difficult to achieve, we should aim to give everyone an equal opportunity. Furthermore, she also agreed with me about educating people in AI starting from a young age to give them a chance to have an insight on the technology of the future.

Overall, this was a great experience which allowed me to learn more about AI and the UK’s approach to it for the future. It has been fascinating to see the varying views, opinions and rebuttals that the panelists had. What I took from this experience was that Artificial Intelligence will definitely be used in the future and will be a part of our daily lives, which we should learn to accept. When all is said and done, we may be hesitant to try something new, but AI will be essential if we want to become better and achieve more.

Also published on Medium.

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