Five urgent actions needed on AI by UK Government
Innovation in AI and - in particular - Generative AI - is developing rapidly. Meanwhile, the UK Government’s AI White Paper has set out an approach to AI regulation that is sector-specific and intended to be agile and iterative. While the consultation on the White Paper runs its course, there are several things that the Government could do in the immediate future to address the AI Governance debate.
1. Break down the current debate into immediate, medium, and long-term priorities
Every day comes with news stories on the opportunities and risks of AI which can feel increasingly overwhelming for businesses and the public alike. The number of issues and concerns being raised range from the use of AI tools in education, the impact on elections, and the evolution of jobs to the future and possible end of humanity. Government can and should provide leadership in the public debate around AI by being vocal about the need to prioritise and consider the issues that are key to focus on immediately and in the medium and longer-term. The AI public debate needs a clear voice to provide leadership and structure. The UK can do this based on the excellent work done by UK businesses, academics, and civil society on Digital and AI Ethics over the last five years.
2. HM Treasury should commit funding now to ensure the Government and regulators have the capability and capacity to act quickly
UK regulators need to quickly build the capability and capacity to understand and respond to developments in AI, as well as adapt to their new responsibilities following the release of the White Paper. They need additional financial resources to deliver on this, and the Treasury should commit to providing additional funding to support the UK’s regulatory landscape. This is vital not only to support the individual regulators but also to ensure that issues falling in-between individual regulators’ remits are not overlooked. Appropriate funding is also essential for ensuring coordination across regulators and enabling horizon scanning for future AI regulatory issues. Following the AI White Paper, this will be a significant new requirement for regulators that must be properly funded and resourced.
3. Move quickly to clarify the role of key bodies, including the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI), the AI Council, and the new Foundation Model Taskforce to ensure adequate engagement
While it is encouraging to see the Prime Minister recently meet with industry leaders to discuss how the UK can provide international leadership on AI, what is most needed is sustained long-term engagement and dialogue between industry and Government. Clear channels for regular dialogue with business, academia, and civil society are and will be increasingly important.
However, currently, there is a lack of clarity about the future of the AI Council, the focus of the CDEI, and the work of the Foundation Model Taskforce. This is causing uncertainty while these bodies have led and led so much of the thinking and coordination on AI governance. Government should move quickly to clarify the role and remit of these bodies as we look ahead so that they can continue to provide a clear voice and global leadership on AI governance and regulation. The UK can and should take on this responsibility as a global leader in AI.
4. Educate and inform UK regulators on how to translate AI principles into practice
Getting the UK’s approach to governing AI right means ensuring regulators have the knowledge, expertise, and skills in AI and Digital Ethics needed to fulfil their new role. The good news is that the UK has a thriving AI and digital ethics community and institutions with long-standing, deep-rooted expertise and understanding of AI ethics. This includes translating ethical principles into practice which have been developed by industry, academia, and Government in recent years. We must bring these two communities together now so that all UK regulators can learn from and lean on this community that has already been built and the wealth of existing knowledge and understanding.
Considering its long-standing work in the space, techUK stands ready to work with the Government to create a forum that allows experts across the ethics community to educate and support regulators.
5. Establish an international AI taskforce to drive the debate on global AI governance and regulation
Following agreement at the G7 Ministerial meeting in Japan on the "Hiroshima AI process", the UK should create an international AI taskforce, bringing together industry leaders and AI experts, to continue to drive the international debate on AI ethics and standards and look to convene a global summit on AI Ethics, Governance, and Regulation bringing together the world’s leading academics, business leaders and civil society organisations to drive international cooperation. This would also ensure the UK’s approach to governing AI is not developed in isolation.
Agreeing on a set of a common, trustworthy, international set of AI standards across different jurisdictions is an important next step for promoting the responsible development of AI. Through the creation of an international AI taskforce, the UK would be well-positioned to lead and drive forward this critical piece of work.
The UK’s AI White Paper presents a significant opportunity for the UK to take a lead in trailblazing a context-specific, risk-based approach to governing AI, on the global scene. Now is the time for speed and real action to demonstrate that the UK’s proposed approach to AI regulation can and will work.
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