We are in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution, an unprecedented opportunity to influence the advancement of social justice. How we embrace these opportunities will shape our society and its power structures for generations to come.
There is an extra moral imperative on those of us working in the IT, digital and tech sectors to open up and diversify these discussions about who has the power and influence over the fundamental decisions that will increasingly govern our lives.
Decisions must be influenced by and made in trusted partnerships with our diverse and sometimes marginalised communities, not imposed on them. The rapid pace of innovation across industry and academia is exciting and the potential for societal benefit is transformative. However, finding consensus around ethics, trust and transparency are proving challenging.
This week as part of World AI week, Amsterdam hosts the World AI Summit - the world’s leading and largest summit of its kind - gathering together the global AI ecosystem of enterprise, BigTech, startups, investors and scientists with the aim, according to its organisers, 'to tackle head-on the most burning AI issues and set the global AI agenda'. I’m looking forward to learning from our international partners about how they are driving ethics in AI across different communities and cultures and bringing this home to support the work of the BCS in making IT better for society.
It’s been exciting participating in this debate with BCS members and communities over the past year through round tables, consultations and now at events such as this World AI Summit. There's a general agreement on the imperative of digitally enfranchising populations and communities across the board even if we disagree on the methodology.
Here in the UK, BCS is playing a significant role in driving ethical decision-making by working with the government's Office for AI. BCS Past President and Distinguished Fellow Dame Wendy Hall is advising the Office as its first Skills Champion and we provided the Office with an independent review of how to prime the pipeline to produce more AI MSc graduates, with many of the recommendations taken on board. It's a significant step in the right direction to achieve the necessary skills matrix needed for our country to thrive.
A top recommendation of our ethical AI report, is the need to create a diverse, inclusive, substantial pipeline of ethical, competent and talented MSc graduates, who are highly skilled in Machine Learning and AI. I’m proud the BCS has recognised the importance of an ethical foundation at the heart of any new talent development in its recommendations to the Government.
Based on its own earlier AI review, the UK government has recognised the demand for at least 3000 such MSc graduates every year. We are world leaders in AI research but there is a severe shortage of talented practitioners in this field to improve our country's prosperity and wellbeing.
With competing priorities, politically and economically, those with a progressive, inclusive voice must stand firm in their resolve to champion the importance of professional and ethical standards to encourage trust in AI. It's fundamental to mitigate against the worst negative unintended consequences and biases that may have repercussions for generations to come. And it must be done within the framework of the shifting and fast-paced fourth industrial revolution.