White paper sets out UK government’s approach to artificial intelligence (AI) and seeks feedback from AI professionals
The UK government has set out its plan to regulate the artificial intelligence (AI) sector and proposes five principles to guide its use going forward.
The government announced that its white paper comes at a time when the “UK’s AI industry is thriving, employing over 50,000 people and contributing £3.7 billion to the economy last year.”
Interest in AI has surged recently thanks to the popularity of AI chatbots like OpenAI’s ChatGPT, and Google’s Bard, driving oversight concerns about the tech.
Earlier this month the largest lobbying group in the United States, the US Chamber of Commerce, signalled its concerns about the arrival of AI technology, and its impact on businesses.
The US Chamber of Commerce called or the regulation of artificial intelligence technology.
The UK government has reacted quickly however with its plan to “help unleash the benefits of AI, one of the 5 technologies of tomorrow.”
The UK government outlined five principles, including safety, transparency and fairness, to guide the use of artificial intelligence in the UK, as part of a new national blueprint for the new technology.
The government pointed out that Britain is home to twice as many companies providing AI products and services as any other European country and hundreds more are created each year.
AI is already delivering real social and economic benefits for people, from helping doctors to identify diseases faster to helping British farmers use their land more efficiently and sustainably. Adopting artificial intelligence in more sectors could improve productivity and unlock growth, which is why the government is committed to unleashing AI’s potential across the economy.
It said that as AI continues developing rapidly, questions have been raised about the future risks it could pose to people’s privacy, their human rights or their safety. The government also said there are concerns about the fairness of using AI tools to make decisions which impact people’s lives, such as assessing the worthiness of loan or mortgage applications.
The government said it will avoid heavy-handed legislation which could stifle innovation and take an adaptable approach to regulating AI.
The government said that instead of giving responsibility for AI governance to a new single regulator, the government will empower existing regulators – such as the Health and Safety Executive, Equality and Human Rights Commission and Competition and Markets Authority – to come up with tailored, context-specific approaches that suit the way AI is actually being used in their sectors.
And the government white paper outlines 5 clear principles that these regulators should consider to best facilitate the safe and innovative use of AI in the industries they monitor:
- safety, security and robustness: applications of AI should function in a secure, safe and robust way where risks are carefully managed;
- transparency and explainability: organisations developing and deploying AI should be able to communicate when and how it is used and explain a system’s decision-making process in an appropriate level of detail that matches the risks posed by the use of AI;
- fairness: AI should be used in a way which complies with the UK’s existing laws, for example the Equality Act 2010 or UK GDPR, and must not discriminate against individuals or create unfair commercial outcomes;
- accountability and governance: measures are needed to ensure there is appropriate oversight of the way AI is being used and clear accountability for the outcomes;
- contestability and redress: people need to have clear routes to dispute harmful outcomes or decisions generated by AI
The government said that this approach will mean the UK’s rules can adapt as this fast-moving technology develops, ensuring protections for the public without holding businesses back from using AI technology to deliver stronger economic growth, better jobs, and bold new discoveries that radically improve people’s lives.
Over the next year British regulators will issue practical guidance to organisations, as well as other tools and resources like risk assessment templates, to set out how to implement these principles in their sectors.
When parliamentary time allows, legislation could be introduced to ensure regulators consider the principles consistently.
“AI has the potential to make Britain a smarter, healthier and happier place to live and work. Artificial intelligence is no longer the stuff of science fiction, and the pace of AI development is staggering, so we need to have rules to make sure it is developed safely,” said Science, Innovation and Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan.
“Our new approach is based on strong principles so that people can trust businesses to unleash this technology of tomorrow,” said Donelan.
The government said that £2 million will fund a new sandbox, a trial environment where businesses can test how regulation could be applied to AI products and services, to support innovators bringing new ideas to market without being blocked by rulebook barriers.
Organisations and individuals working with AI can share their views on the white paper as part of a new consultation launching today, which will inform how the framework is developed in the months ahead.
“AI has the potential to advance science and benefit humanity in numerous ways, from combating climate change to better understanding and treating diseases,” said Lila Ibrahim, chief operating officer and UK AI council member at DeepMind.
“This transformative technology can only reach its full potential if it is trusted, which requires public and private partnership in the spirit of pioneering responsibly,” said Ibrahim.
“The UK’s proposed context-driven approach will help regulation keep pace with the development of AI, support innovation and mitigate future risks.”
“techUK welcomes the much-anticipated publication of the UK’s AI White Paper and supports its plans for a context-specific, principle-based approach to governing AI that promotes innovation,” added Sue Daley, director for tech and innovation at techUK.
“The government must now prioritise building the necessary regulatory capacity, expertise, and coordination,” said Daley. “techUK stands ready to work alongside government and regulators to ensure that the benefits of this powerful technology are felt across both society and the economy.”
Organisations and individuals involved in the AI sector are encouraged to provide feedback on the white paper through a consultation that runs until Tuesday 21 June.
The government’s approach has also been praised by Sridhar Iyengar, managing director at cloud software specialist Zoho Europe.
“It is fantastic to see the government supporting the use of AI and understanding the potential it can bring to UK businesses and the economy,” commented Iyengar. “Part of increased AI adoption requires the demystification of its use cases and education on how businesses and staff can utilise this extremely useful business tool would help to achieve this.”
“AI can automate tasks and increase the efficiencies of business,” said Iyengar. “For example, it can be used for fraud detection, forecasting and analysis as well as for improving customer service levels, enabling customer service bots to respond quicker to customer enquiries.”
“AI has the potential to supercharge businesses and improve the services they offer to the public while saving organisations huge amounts of time and effort, freeing up humans for more complex tasks,” said Iyengar.
“AI is already holding a presence in many businesses, automating tedious tasks and drawing together data insights,” Iyengar concluded. “However, with the right support, the future of AI could be hugely impactful on areas including coding and software development. Artificial Intelligence has proven itself to be a useful tool for both businesses and individuals, and it is now it is time to take a universal approach to support its development, helping to drive both business and economic growth across the UK.”