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MPs Say Government Must Consider The Impact Of AI

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So far the government has shown a lack of leadership on addressing concerns over smart robots replacing human jobs, claims science and technology committee

The impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on society, law and ethics needs careful scrutiny, MPs on the Science and Technology Committee have said.

The Committee called for the government to establish a commission to look into such issues, including the new skills humans will need to learn if intelligent machines end up taking their jobs.

“At present, ‘AI machines’ have narrow and specific roles, such as in voice-recognition or playing the board game Go,” said the Committee’s acting chairwoman Dr Tania Mathias.

“But science fiction is slowly becoming science fact, and robotics and AI look destined to play an increasing role in our lives over the coming decades.”

Rise of the robots

Terminator HD TV competition prizeWhile the ways AIs can be used are often down to how their creators make them, effectively acting like a mirror of their maker’s ethics, values and objectives, the Committee said government has shown a lack of leadership in addressing the issues that the evolution of AI presents and that technology company alliances looking into the topic does not “absolve the government of its responsibilities”.

Dr Mathias proposed that the Alan Turing Institute could be the home of an AI commission, should the government set one up, and may be used to “identify principles for governing the development and application of AI, and to foster public debate”.

Killer robots may be the concern of many when they hear of machines getting smarter, but the idea that AI will replace people in jobs, much like ‘dumb’ robots have replaced factory workers, is also a worry.

“Since we cannot yet foresee exactly how these changes will play out, we must respond with a readiness to re-skill and up-skill,” said Dr Mathias.

“This requires a commitment by the government to ensure that our education and training systems are flexible, so that they can adapt as opportunities and demands on the workforce change.

“It is too soon to set down sector-wide regulations for this nascent field, but it is vital that careful scrutiny of the ethical, legal and societal ramifications of artificially intelligent systems begins now.”

Given Google is sticking an AI-powered software assistant in its new Pixel smartphones, and Huawei is providing $1 million of funding to support UC Berkeley’s research into AI, the Committee’s concerns and call seem well timed.

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