Robotics and artificial intelligence Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

Education and skills

1.Advances in robotics and AI hold the potential to reshape fundamentally the way we live and work. While we cannot yet foresee exactly how this fourth industrial revolution will play out, we know that gains in productivity and efficiency, new services and jobs, and improved support in existing roles are all on the horizon, alongside the potential loss of well-established occupations. Such transitions will be challenging. As a nation, we must respond with a readiness to re-skill, and up-skill, on a continuing basis. This requires a commitment by the Government to ensure that our education and training systems are flexible, so that they can adapt as the demands on the workforce change, and are geared up for lifelong learning. Leadership in this area, however, has been lacking. It is disappointing that the Government has still not published its Digital Strategy and set out its plans for equipping the future workforce with the digital skills it needs to thrive. (Paragraph 36)

2.Digital exclusion has no place in 21st century Britain. As we recommended in our Big Data Dilemma, Digital Skills Crisis, and Satellites and Space reports, the Government must commit to addressing the digital skills crisis through a Digital Strategy, published without delay. (Paragraph 37)

Governance: standards and regulations

3.While it is too soon to set down sector-wide regulations for this nascent field, it is vital that careful scrutiny of the ethical, legal and societal dimensions of artificially intelligent systems begins now. Not only would this help to ensure that the UK remains focused on developing ‘socially beneficial’ AI systems, it would also represent an important step towards fostering public dialogue about, and trust in, such systems over time. (Paragraph 71)

4.Our inquiry has illuminated many of the key ethical issues requiring serious consideration—verification and validation, decision-making transparency, minimising bias, increasing accountability, privacy and safety. As the field continues to advance at a rapid pace, these factors require ongoing monitoring, so that the need for effective governance is continually assessed and acted upon. The UK is world-leading when it comes to considering the implications of AI and is well-placed to provide global intellectual leadership on this matter. (Paragraph 72)

5.We recommend that a standing Commission on Artificial Intelligence be established, based at the Alan Turing Institute, to examine the social, ethical and legal implications of recent and potential developments in AI. It should focus on establishing principles to govern the development and application of AI techniques, as well as advising the Government of any regulation required on limits to its progression. It will need to be closely coordinated with the work of the Council of Data Ethics which the Government is currently setting up following the recommendation made in our Big Data Dilemma report. (Paragraph 73)

6.Membership of the Commission should be broad and include those with expertise in law, social science and philosophy, as well as computer scientists, natural scientists, mathematicians and engineers. Members drawn from industry, NGOs and the public, should also be included and a programme of wide ranging public dialogue instituted. (Paragraph 74)

Research, funding and innovation

7.Despite identifying Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) as one of the ‘Eight Great Technologies’ in 2013, Government leadership has been noticeably lacking. There is no Government strategy for developing the skills, and securing the critical investment, that is needed to create future growth in robotics and AI. Nor is there any sign of the Government delivering on its promise to establish a ‘RAS Leadership Council’ to provide much needed coordination and direction. Without a Government strategy for the sector, the productivity gains that could be achieved through greater uptake of the technologies across the UK will remain unrealised. (Paragraph 98)

8.The Government should, without further delay, establish a RAS Leadership Council, with membership drawn from across academia, industry and, crucially, the Government. The Leadership Council should work with the Government and the Research Councils to produce a Government-backed ‘National RAS Strategy’; one that clearly sets out the Government’s ambitions, and financial support, for this ‘great technology’. Founding a ‘National RAS Institute’, or Catapult, should be part of the strategy. (Paragraph 99)

© Parliamentary copyright 2015

5 October 2016