The UK, well on its way to becoming a world leader in artificial intelligence, wants to put ethics at the center of AI.

British lawmakers this week proposed a cross-sector code for national and international adoption:

  1. Artificial intelligence should be developed for the common good and benefit of humanity.
  2. Artificial intelligence should operate on principles of intelligibility and fairness.
  3. Artificial intelligence should not be used to diminish the data rights or privacy of individuals, families, or communities.
  4. All citizens should have the right to be educated to enable them to flourish mentally, emotionally, and economically alongside artificial intelligence.
  5. The autonomous power to hurt, destroy, or deceive human beings should never be vested in artificial intelligence.

These suggestions (which are eerily reminiscent of Isaac Asimov’s Laws of Robotics) are part of a 180-plus-page report from the House of Lords Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence.

“The UK has a unique opportunity to shape AI positively for the public’s benefit and to lead the international community in AI’s ethical development, rather than passively accept its consequences,” chairman Timothy Clement-Jones said in a statement.

“AI is not without its risks and the adoption of the principles proposed by the Committee will help to mitigate these,” he continued. “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.”

The report, meanwhile, warns against allowing just a handful of “Big Tech” companies—Alphabet, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, etc.—to monopolize AI.

“Large companies which have control over vast quantities of data must be prevented from becoming overly powerful within this landscape,” according to the document, titled “AI in the UK: ready, willing and able?”

But don’t expect the country to implement a Big Brother-esque unit to patrol the emerging technology: Clement-Jones told Bloomberg the Committee doesn’t see the need for “an overarching regulator.”

Over its nine-month investigation into all aspects of AI development in the UK, the panel received 223 pieces of written evidence and interviewed 43 witnesses.

Additional proposals include better funding for small- to medium-sized companies working with AI, as well as an increase in Tier 1 visas to allow more people with machine-learning skills to enter the local workforce.

“We want to make sure that this country remains a cutting-edge place to research and develop this exciting technology,” Clement-Jones said. “However, start-ups can struggle to scale up on their own. Our recommendations for a growth fund for SMEs and changes to the immigration system will help to do this.

“We’ve asked whether the UK is ready, willing and able to take advantage of AI. With our recommendations, it will be.”


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