The Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence of the UK House of Lords has published its long awaited report on AI, questioning “AI in the UK: ready, willing and able?”.

The report represents a welcome intervention into the debate on the manner in which AI technology could and should be deployed in our lives, to harness its benefits.

Perhaps most significantly for product manufacturers, the Committee has concluded that blanket AI-specific regulation would be inappropriate, at least at this time, recognising that sector-specific regulators are best positioned to consider the impact on their sectors of any regulatory change.

As far as any wider legal framework is concerned, the Committee (adopting the evidence Cooley submitted) acknowledged that the developing technology has the potential to challenge the nature of existing legal obligations and accordingly has called on the UK Law Commission to provide clarity as to the adequacy of existing legislation.

In our view, these are two of the key recommendations from a comprehensive and thoughtful report, which runs to 180 pages and considered written and oral evidence from over 200 hundred witnesses from technologists, investors, through to academics and policy makers.   The report also proposes five overarching principles for an AI Code.

An AI Code?

(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 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.

It is, however, only a first step. 

Whilst the report undoubtedly represents a sensible approach, the wider debate will ultimately depend on whether reports such as this can be used as a foundation to channel the greater good of the technology, in an ethical and coherent manner.   One significant barrier to this will inevitably be the extent to which regulators and those seeking to design and implement policy co-ordinate their activities with each other.It is, however, only a first step.

We cannot have – nor should we allow to develop – a competitive environment where national policymakers are pitted against sector-based regulators or even supra-national bodies.  This will only lead to a race to the bottom, in which there will be no winners.

As the Committee rightly recognises, the UK is among world leaders in the development of AI.  We are therefore uniquely placed to inform how this essential debate proceeds.  However, we do not have any exclusive right to promote (or design) the appropriate solutions.   Rather, we need to ensure that all relevant stakeholders in the technology have a voice and work collaboratively to take the action necessary to create the appropriate environment for its deployment.

To this end, we will continue to beat the drum about the need for policymakers and legislators to understand the technology before seeking to regulate its application.  If you want to help us inform the debate – or are interested in our evidence to the House of Lords, or our work with the EU and OECD on aligned projects – get in touch… we are very much ready, willing and able.


Posted by