21 Sep 2023
by Dr Maya Dillon

Innovation and assurance – navigating the future with responsible AI

Guest blog from Dr Maya Dillon, Head of AI Capability, Cambridge Consultants. Part of techUK's #SuperchargeUKTech Week 2023.

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We’re at a pivotal juncture. The UK is pitching to reshape the global AI landscape with a clear vision for 2030. And me? I’m deeply committed to empowering individuals and businesses to fully grasp every challenge and opportunity that lies ahead. We must seize a future where artificial intelligence works seamlessly with human innovation. I strongly advocate a global approach to leverage the immense potential of AI while safeguarding against its risks.

As we move forwards together, it’s imperative that ethics form the bedrock of our corporate culture, not just a supplementary guideline. I see a future crafted with collaborative spirit, where technology operates within ethical boundaries, augmenting human potential and enhancing quality of life. All fine words, you might well say. But how do we really make things happen?

Well for a start we need to initiate a journey anchored in statutory frameworks to foster real and sustainable innovation, safeguarding public interest while stimulating economic growth. In my world AI not only amplifies innovation but does so with a conscience. Auditing AI might not be the sexy bit, but it’s vital, nonetheless.

At Cambridge Consultants, AI assurance serves as our compass – and a practical, pragmatic tool – to steer us towards ethical and responsible AI innovation. The approach is documented in a CC Innovation Briefing on AI assurance.

I’d urge you to get across it. We delve into the foundational role of AI assurance and propose the introduction of a Chief Artificial Intelligence Officer (CAIO) in businesses. This critical role would involve championing ethical governance at the zenith of corporate structures. Beyond that, it would stand as testimony to the UK’s dedication to nurturing a culture grounded in responsible innovation.

As I said at the outset, these are critical days. As business leaders and policy makers prepare for techUK’s November summit, ‘Supercharging innovation into action’, we need to take stock to ensure we get next-generation innovation right. That means embedding responsible AI at the heart of everything we do.

The recent House of Commons interim report on the governance of artificial intelligence highlights rapid transformations, as AI evolves from a concept of interest to a pervasive technology, fuelled significantly by developments in large language models such as ChatGPT.

But the dramatic rise comes with a unique set of challenges. These range from susceptibility to manipulation and functioning inadequately in unstructured environments to substantial concerns around biases, privacy and transparency.

Policymakers face the daunting task of navigating these issues, emphasising the urgency to bolster governance structures to protect individual rights and curb potential harms. The government’s response, a policy paper on a pro-innovation approach to AI regulation, champions a range of priorities to balance aspects such as safety, transparency, fairness, accountability and governance.

The paper identifies the imminent AI Safety Summit as crucial in promoting international cooperation and leveraging AI opportunities, underscoring the need for a harmonised global approach. I’d add the need for robust policies to steer AI development safely and responsibly, leveraging the UK's strong heritage in technological innovation and regulatory acumen.

To that end, many of you will have heard about ‘frontier AI’. This terminology considers AI beyond bleeding edge development – also known as generation-after-next AI. While it’s interesting to consider our long-term visions of the future, we start to fall into the realms of science fiction and this positioning can be used to create discord and fear. At CC, we work to push the envelope of generation-after-next. Here, we have the capacity to tangibly impact the development of AI and manage its development. This is where science meets innovation.

Those with the role of CAIO that I mentioned earlier could transcend the traditional confines of corporate leadership. As arbiters of ethical AI, they’d spearhead initiatives to foster responsible innovation, scrutinising every project through a prism that balances innovation with ethical stipulations.

For instance, in the healthcare sector, they could champion the development of AI tools grounded in precision and privacy and symbiotic with responsible governance. The role could extend beyond borders, nurturing international collaborations and embedding ethical compliance in global AI initiatives.

But let’s be under no illusion. To realise the UK's global vision, policymakers are tasked with a herculean endeavour. It’s not straightforward to sculpt legislation that embodies the spirit of innovation while safeguarding the broader societal canvas. This entails fostering international regulatory collaborations, orchestrating an AI landscape where technology seamlessly complements human enterprise, and enhances the qualitative fabric of life across sectors.  

While a CAIO would serve as a formidable safeguard, corporations must foster a culture of ethical commitment permeating every tier of their hierarchies. The regulatory framework must be architected to incentivise ethical adherence, nurturing a symbiotic relationship between profitability and responsible innovation.

Discourse around AI regulation invariably sparks concerns around potential roadblocks to innovation and elevated barriers to entry for nascent enterprises. To mitigate this, a calibrated regulatory approach is essential to foster innovation while ensuring ethical compliance. Policymakers should work towards facilitating accessibility to resources and opportunities, preventing the monopolisation of the AI landscape by a select few.

I can’t end without confronting concerns surrounding AI’s potential to exacerbate inequality and discrimination, especially in areas like employee hiring and financial services. This demands the creation of AI systems that are grounded in fairness and inclusivity. Algorithms must be constantly scrutinised and refined to prevent inadvertent discrimination. The trajectory of AI development has to be towards a future that is both innovative and just.

AI is just one area of deep technology that has the potential to radically transform businesses. Our exclusive report explores how deep tech investment including quantum and AI unlocks defensible long-term value from new-to-the-world innovation.

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Dr Maya Dillon

Dr Maya Dillon

Head of AI Capability, Cambridge Consultants