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Artificial Intelligence needs ethics, says Bishop Croft

27 April 2018


ARTIFICIAL intelligence should be shaped by a “strong ethical base” led by the UK, the Bishop of Oxford, Dr Steven Croft, has said.

Coinciding with the publication on Monday of last week of a report by the House of Lords Select Committee on AI, of which Dr Croft is a member, he said that a new ethical framework should come from Europe “with its strong foundation in Christian values”, and, most of all, the UK.

The report, AI in the UK: Ready, willing and able?argues that the UK is in a strong position to be a world leader in the development of AI.

In a blog posted on Monday of last week, Dr Croft said that the new ethical framework for AI would not come from large technology companies in Silicon Valley, because they “seek the minimum regulation and maximum freedom”; nor would it come from China, which had a “very different view of how personal data should be handled”.

Dr Croft wrote: “It is most likely to come from Europe, with its strong foundation in Christian values and the rights of the individual and most of all, at present, from the United Kingdom, which is also a global player in the development of technology.”

He told the news website Politico on Monday of last week that “because the actual application of artificial intelligence has outstripped public awareness of what artificial intelligence can do, we are in a situation where ethics become extremely important.”

There was “immense potential for good” in AI, such as driving up productivity levels and allowing for advances for medicine, but also “significant risks”, such as the way personal data might be manipulated, Dr Croft wrote.

The House of Lords report sets out five core principles for the new Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation to use as a starting-point for its work.

They were that AI should be “developed for the common good and benefit of humanity”; that it should “operate on principles of intelligibility and fairness”; that AI should not diminish data rights or privacy; that all citizens should be able to be educated to enable them to flourish along with AI; and that the “autonomous power to hurt, destroy or deceive human beings should never be vested” in AI.

Dr Croft said that the Select Committee believed that “Britain has a vital role in leading the international community in shaping artificial intelligence for the common good rather than passively accepting its consequences.”

The Liberal Democrat peer Lord Clement-Jones, who chairs the committee, said: “The UK contains leading AI companies, a dynamic academic research culture, and a vigorous start-up ecosystem, as well as a host of legal, ethical, financial, and linguistic strengths.

“We should make the most of this environment, but it is essential that ethics take centre stage in AI’s development and use.”

Last year, Dr Croft said that he was joining the AI Select Committee so that the Church had a voice in the debate (News, 28 July 2017, Comment, 19 January).

Read the report at www.parliament.uk/ai-committee

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