The House of Lords liaison committee report “AI in the UK: No Room for Complacency” was published on 18 December 2020. It examines the progress made by the government in the implementation of the recommendations made by the Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence in its 2018 report “AI in the UK: ready, willing and able?”
The new report notes that, since the earlier publication, the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has increased in several areas, including in public services, for example the use of facial recognition by some police forces, as well as in projects initiated in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This increased use is acknowledged to be hugely beneficially, but it does also create risks around the use of personal data.
The report concludes that the government needs to better co-ordinate its AI policy and the use of technology and data by both national and local government. Ethical AI is the only sustainable way forward, but there is a risk that momentum may be lost – the government needs to progress from deciding what the ethics are to working out how to instil them in the development and deployment of AI systems.
Lord Clement Jones, chairing the committee, commented:
“The government has done well to establish a range of bodies to advise it on AI over the long term. However, we caution against complacency. There must be more and better coordination, and it must start at the top.
A Cabinet Committee must be created whose first task should be to commission and approve a five-year strategy for AI. The strategy should prepare society to take advantage of AI rather than be taken advantage of by it."
"The government must lead the way on making ethical AI a reality. Not to do so would be to waste the progress it has made to date, and to squander the opportunities AI presents for everyone in the UK.”
Other recommendations for the government include:
- taking active steps to explain to the pubic the use of their personal data by AI;
- taking immediate steps to appoint a Chief Data Officer, whose responsibilities should include acting as a champion for the opportunities presented by AI in the public service, and ensuring that understanding and use of AI, and the safe and principled use of public data, are embedded across the public service;
- raising the level of digital skills in the UK, and ensuring people have the opportunity to reskill and retrain so as to adapt to changes in the labour market cause by AI; and
- identifying the industries most likely to be at risk from AI changing the nature of work, and designating a specific national training scheme to support people to work alongside AI and automation.