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The Lords Want to Ban Unexplainable AI


The House of Lords’ Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence has recommended that the government take on big technology companies (specifically the US quintet of Amazon, Alphabet, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Facebook) and stop them from monopolising the control of data.

The Committee’s latest report also urged action against algorithmic bias, which is known to dog the AI sector.

“We must make sure that [UK firms] do have access [to data] and it isn’t all stitched up by the big five, or whoever it might be,” the Committee’s chair Lord Timothy Clement-Jones said.

The Lords also underlined that Britain should become one of the leaders in spearheading AI ethics, for instance with the promotion of tools to spot and counter algorithmic bias, or to make it easier to understand the processes behind AI’s automated decisions.

The recommendation comes a few week after France has already made a similar  pitch, with the unveiling of its “AI For Humanity” strategy.

The Lords went as far as suggesting that if an algorithm used to make decisions about British citizens cannot be properly explained— that is, if even expert auditors cannot establish the criteria informing the machine’s automated decisions— it should be banned.

“We do think there could be circumstances where the decision that is made with the aid of an algorithm is so important there may be circumstances where you may insist on that level of explainability or intelligibility from the outset,” Clement-Jones said.

The Committee suggested that AI regulation should behoove on existing organisations such as Ofcom, Ofgem and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), possibly aided by  the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation, the AI Council and the Government Office of AI— although the report does not specify what role each of these bodies should play.

As usual, the report also warned that AI could result in job loss, and called for the government to set up retraining schemes to alleviate the impact of automation on the UK’s job market.

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