Rishi Sunak should put ethics high on the global agenda when the UK hosts the AI Safety Summit this autumn, according to research by the professional body for computing.

The majority (88%) of experts surveyed by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT ahead of the Bletchley Park meeting said the UK should take an international lead on ethical standards in AI.

Most IT professionals (82%) agreed that organisations should be required to publish ethical policies on their use of AI and other high-stakes technologies.

Nearly all (90%) said a company’s reputation for ethical use of technology was key when deciding to work for them or partner with them.

And 19% of respondents to the BCS survey said they had faced an ethical challenge in their work over the past year.

Professional standards

A majority (81%) said it was vital that technologists should be able to demonstrate their ethical credentials through recognised professional standards.

Tech professionals said they would like to see ethical AI standards implemented most quickly across the health and care sector. Nearly a quarter (24%) selected that option, which was followed by defence (16%), criminal justice and banking (both 13%) and education (12%).

Gillian Arnold, President of BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT said: “Hosting the AI safety Summit is the UK’s opportunity to put together a global consensus on ethical use of digital technologies.

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“That includes asking organisations to publish ethical policies on how they create and use tech. It also means having safe whistle-blowing channels for experts working on areas like AI, if they feel they’re being asked to work in a way that compromises their professional standards or discriminates against a section of society.

“The public needs to have confidence that AI is being created by diverse, ethical teams as it continues to weave itself into our life and work. Agreeing global standards of responsible computing is one way of building that trust.”

Earlier this year, an open letter from BCS encouraging leaders to see AI as a force for good and not an existential threat, was signed by 1300 experts.

About the report

Overall, 1304 BCS members completed this questionnaire between 10 August and 29 August 2023. The survey was conducted online by BCS among its UK membership.