The relentless advance of artificial intelligence has caught the attention of the UK parliament. A House of Lords Select Committee will consider the social, ethical, and economic impact of AI. The Committee is due to report in March 2018. But they have already begun gathering evidence.
It is probably fair to say as many people fear AI as are excited by it. Will artificial intelligence improve our quality of life? Or will it end in a rise of the robots doomsday scenario?
They are two of the questions the Committee will be looking to answer. Lord Clement-Jones, Chairman of the Committee, said: “This inquiry comes at a time when artificial intelligence is increasingly seizing the attention of industry, policymakers and the general public.
“The Committee wants to use this inquiry to understand what opportunities exist for society in the development and use of artificial intelligence. As well as what risks there might be.”
What are the committee interested in?
A week seldom goes by without news of another breakthrough in AI. It is the speed and the ramifications of AI the Committee will consider.
They will focus on:
- Where artificial intelligence is at now
- The pace and development of AI
- The likely impact of AI on society
- The sectors which will benefit from, or suffer from, artificial intelligence
- The role of government
- The ethics of artificial intelligence
Would you trust Nigel?
Of interest to the Committee may be the US company which claims to have ‘cracked’ AI.
Kimera Systems in Portland, Oregon believe they have found the secret. They are developing software which can ‘think’ independently. Which is the holy grail of AI boffins.
Their digital helper ‘Nigel’ will program itself while monitoring its user’s behaviour. Inventor Mounir Shita says Nigel will be able to tell you who to vote for, emphasise with your views and even help you achieve your goals.
He told the BBC: “Our goal, with Nigel, is by this time next year to have Nigel read and write at a grade school level.
“We want you to trust Nigel, we want Nigel to know who you are and serve you in everyday life.
“It (Nigel) tries to figure out your goals and what reality looks like to you and is constantly assimilating paths to the future to reach your goals.
“It’s constantly trying to push you in the right direction.”
Benefits or dangers?
Nigel and systems like him are why politicians and others are concerned about AI.
Some believe digital helpers are only a few steps away from killer robots storming through the streets. That’s extreme of course.
The more rational may be more worried about losing their job to AI.
Those fears could be real. Consultancy firm PWC claim jobs are at risk from AI. They estimate 10million UK workers will be replaced by robots within 15 years.
Nigel’s inventor Mounir Shita sees advantages in robots taking jobs. He said: “I am not envisioning people sitting on their couch eating potato chips, gaining weight, because they have nothing to do.
“I envision people free from labour and can pursue whatever interests or hobbies they have.”
Which all sounds very nice. But others aren’t convinced.
Elon Musk is very vocal in his warnings about artificial intelligence. He once said those working on AI were “summoning the demon.” AI must be regulated he insists.
What could AI mean for us?
The impact on society is something the House of Lords Select Committee will be looking at.
They specifically want to know how the public can be prepared for the widespread use of AI. Their brief is to also look at the impact on jobs, education, and everyday life.
They will also look at how AI will develop over the next decade or two. Who will benefit most and who will lose out.
A wide-ranging brief then.
Lord Clement-Jones said: “There are significant questions to address relevant to both the present and the future. And we want to help inform the answers to them.”
Good luck with that.