Tech companies must rebuild public trust

One of the UK’s leading technology thinkers has called for profound changes to technology companies’ relationship with the public in relation to Artificial Intelligence.

"All citizens have the right to flourish mentally, emotionally and economically alongside artificial intelligence."

“All citizens have the right to flourish mentally, emotionally and economically alongside artificial intelligence.”


Speaking in an exclusive interview at the launch of ‘AI in the UK: ready, willing and able?’ the House of Lords Select Committee’s report into the technology, Dr Stephen Cave the Director of the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence said: “Things will go wrong. We are trying to prepare for a technology that’s developing incredibly quickly and that will impact on many different areas of life but that shouldn’t stop us from trying to do the best that we can to prepare the way to build up centres and capacity for thinking what it means to implement this technology responsibly.”
Dr Cave pointed out that the recent scandal involving Cambridge Analytica and possibly some 87m records taken from Facebook to identify impressionable and prejudiced people to use as social media broadcasting points to influence the Brexit vote and the US election, was just one example of the need for the technology industry to change and to embrace an ethical position.
This new concern over the behaviour of technology companies in the wake of the emergence of AI as a viable technology was emphasised in the House of Lords Report which laid out five key principles for the technology industry as AI begins to be rolled out to the public:

  •  That AI should be developed for the common good and the benefit of humanity.
  • That AI should operate on principles of intelligibility and fairness.
  • That AI should not be used to diminish the data rights or privacy of individuals, families or communities.
  • That all citizens have the right to be educated to enable them to flourish mentally, emotionally and economically alongside AI.
  • That the autonomous power to hurt, destroy or deceive human beings should never be vested in AI.

Dr Stephen Cave

In what will be viewed as one of the most high-minded policy calls in history, the arcane House of Lords is seeking to bring to book the most powerful and cutting-edge industry sector in the world by exploiting the growing public unease over the activities of technology companies.
According to Dr Cave, for AI to work in the interests of humanity the technology industry needs to prepare for massive changes in the way it works, in the way that it develops its products and the ways that it uses people’s information.
“It’s about building the right kind of framework the right kind of regulatory framework the right kind of codes of conduct about educating developers and technologists who of course have a passion for solving problems and doing exciting things educating them about the impact of their technology. “They are good people too. They want to benefit society they don’t want to build killer robots and so it’s about helping people to use the technology for maximum benefit.”
Future Intelligence (Fi) which has been campaigning since 1996 on the issue of the impact of technology on society gave written evidence to the House of Lords report – AI in the UK: ready, willing and able?

In Fi’s 2014 report ‘Can we make the digital world ethical? Exploring the dark side of the internet of things and big data’, Fi called for ‘device sanctity’ that technological devices be made loyal to the people who own them and not to the companies that make them and for people to be given ‘primacy of interest’ in technology, meaning that people come before the machines and the software.

To listen to Dr Cave’s full interview click here.