AI Strategy

The debate

How far is AI embedded in society and the economy – what are its successes and shortcomings? The comment was made that when AI is a success and becomes embedded, it ceases to be referred to as ‘AI’. A host of specific AI successes were cited, including those within FinTech, EdTech and agriculture. AI will surely have a huge impact on the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals. As an emerging technology – or family of technologies – there are a number of issues around regulation and standards, especially given the speed at which the sector is growing and diversifying.

Fraught standards

As it is difficult even to agree a definition of AI, developing standards for this area is fraught with difficulty too. Yet, following the rapid emergence of AI centres across Government, academia, and the wider world, there is a critical need for appropriate regulation and identification of adequate governance mechanisms. It is likely the case that a single regulator will not suffice and that domain-specific bodies – particularly in the case of medical data, for which informed consent cannot be given at the time of sample collection – may be required if the consent relationship is to be based on trust, rather than transaction.

On the subjects of effective governance and engagement with multinational businesses, the Global Partnership on AI (GPAI) is a useful forum for collaboration. The Capital Economics report on AI Activity in the UK suggested that there may be a skills shortage of 50-100,000 skilled people in the future. An alternative view was that there is a need for experts to remain within their own sectors and interact with AI specialists, rather than transitioning large numbers of experienced people into this new field. Whereas there has been concern over the loss of jobs as a result of widespread adoption of AI, it now looks likely that there will instead be a host of new positions and skills created, starting at the apprentice level.

AI will make a key contribution to several of the major challenges currently facing the world. With regard to defence, international treaties, similar to those for nuclear proliferation, were advocated as a strategy for collaboration with international partners that may have different ethical standards. Similarly, the climate challenge represents another area in which AI can prove beneficial, albeit with careful consideration required to overcome the energy consumption associated with technologies such as Web 3.0 and blockchain.

Overall, the field of AI represents an opportunity to enhance a number of sectors in the UK, and beyond, and the AI Strategy will be key to ensuring that this is done safely, responsibly, and ethically.

After the formal presentations, the speakers came together in a panel to discuss relevant topics with members of audience, including: the success of the technology to date; standards; governance; and collaboration on global challenges.