Artificial Intelligence Seizes the Attention of UK Government

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By Richard Ward, Government and Regulatory Affairs Executive, IBM United Kingdom

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is no longer a nebulous concept that lies over the horizon. The fourth industrial revolution, powered by AI, is already here and these advanced systems are helping us scale human knowledge and expertise.

AI represents a significant economic opportunity for the United Kingdom. In fact, recent research from IBM and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) found that around 20% of British firms have already deployed practical applications of AI.

IBM’s Richard Ward

To gain a greater understanding of the potential impact of AI and what the future could hold, the UK House of Lords recently issued a call for views from interested parties. IBM has been researching, developing and investing in AI technology for more than 50 years. Having built the world’s first commercial cognitive computing system, IBM Watson, we welcomed the opportunity to submit a point-of-view that is briefly summarized below.

AI, data & trust through transparency

IBM believes strongly in the potential for AI to benefit society, as well as transform our personal and professional lives. All aspects of society from business and government to education and healthcare have the potential to benefit from the continued evolution of AI systems. We believe that new companies, new jobs, and entirely new markets will be built on the shoulders of this technology.

AI is progressing well, with more solutions on the way to help people find smarter ways to live and work in a world where big data is the new natural resource. To fully reap the benefits of AI though, society must trust it. This trust must be earned through transparency, and through repeated experience in the same way society learned to trust that an ATM will register a deposit or that an automobile will stop when the brake is applied.

IBM has recently published Data Responsibility @ IBM, a comprehensive statement of the practices and principles we follow to ensure trust in both our technology and our handling of clients’ most sensitive information. This platform makes clear our belief that AI systems must be accountable and developed with the capability to explain their decision-making process. If companies cannot provide that transparency, their AI should not be allowed on the market. Trust in AI will be further strengthened through the development and adoption of best practices and codes of conduct to guide professionals through the safe and ethical development of AI.

IBM is engaged in a range of efforts to advance our understanding and ability to shape the ethical development of AI. This includes establishing an internal cognitive ethics board, launching a company-wide education curriculum on the ethical development of cognitive technologies and serving as a founding member of the Partnership on AI, an organisation committed to establishing best practices for developing AI that benefits people and society.

Looking to the future

The AI future is bright. The technology is progressing rapidly across an unprecedented range of applications through use of deep learning techniques that acquire skills automatically from data, human interaction and practice. Recent advances have resulted in significant achievements in AI’s ability to understand and process speech, vision, and audio data.

Looking ahead, it is reasonable to expect the first highly mobile robots capable of precise manipulations within five years. We should expect computer and robotic systems that can perform a wide variety of the functions required to help run a business, factory or household within ten years. We may also expect very broad AI assistance for complex tasks like management, healthcare, or scientific research within twenty years. But, to be clear, IBM believes the ultimate value of AI lies in its ability to augment – not replace – human expertise, judgement and decision making. Further, this powerful and promising technology does not need to be combined physically with human intellect to achieve its full potential.

IBM’s full submission to the House of Lords’ AI Committee is available here:


Media Contact:
Adam Pratt
Ph: (202) 551-9625

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