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BCS says UK can set gold standard for ethical AI

05/08/21

Mark Say Managing Editor

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A new report has said the UK can be a world leader in the ethical use of artificial intelligence if more people from non-tech backgrounds choose to work in the field.

AI head

Published by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, it says the UK can set a gold standard for the issue and identifies four crucial outcomes, along with steps to scale up the use of the technology in the UK.

Titled Priorities for a National AI Strategy, it has been produced to complement the Government’s plan to publish a final version of national AI strategy later this year.

One of the outcomes is to bring talented people from different backgrounds into AI, with government taking a lead in developing a range of flexible pathways into AI professions suitable for people with non-STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) qualifications. This would need to overcome the barriers of an education and training system that is still mainly linear, with students expected to follow a path they chose during their teens.

Another outcome is to ensure the public trusts AI, seeing that practitioners ae competent, ethical and accountable. This requires government to work with the relevant professions in updating competency standards, ethical values and accountability for software development and its adoption in the public and private sectors.

Third is to provide accessible AI qualifications that would help people escape the digital divide, which would need a wider range of academic, technical and professional qualifications.

Finally, AI should be used to accelerate progress towards sustainable decarbonisation. So far there has been a lack of cross-sector co-operation, and government should take the lead in developing interdisciplinary collaboration between professions. This could speed up the development and use of AI solutions to support the move towards net zero carbon emissions.

Industrialisation

In addition, the report says there is a need to scale up and industrialise the use of AI. This requires measures such as: creating dedicated high performance clusters and data centres for use by industry, academia and public services; promoting the development of AI skills within specific sectors of the economy; and improving the quality of data to support the use of AI in the public sector.

Lead report author Dr Bill Mitchell OBE, director of policy at BCS, said: “The UK should set the gold standard for professional and ethical AI as a critical part of our economic recovery.

“We all deserve to have understanding and confidence in AI, as it affects our lives over the coming years. to get there, the profession should be known as a go-to place for men and women from a diverse range of backgrounds, who reflect the needs of everyone they are engineering software for. That might be credit scoring apps, cancer diagnoses based on training data, or software that decides if you get a job interview or not.

“It’s about developing a highly skilled, ethical and diverse workforce – and a political class – that understands AI well enough to deliver the right solutions for society. That will take a strong leadership from the government and access to digital skills training across the board.”

Image from iStock, monstij

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