A report from the UK House of Lords Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence has made a number of recommendations for the UK’s approach to the rise of algorithms. The report ‘AI in the UK: ready, willing and able?’ suggests the creation of a cross-sector AI Code to help mitigate the risks of AI outstripping human intelligence.
The main recommendation in the report is that autonomous power to hurt, destroy or deceive human beings should never be vested in artificial intelligence. The committee calls for the Law Commission to clarify existing liability law and considers whether it will be sufficient when AI systems malfunction or cause harm to users. The authors predict a situation where it is possible to foresee a scenario where AI systems may
malfunction, underperform or otherwise make erroneous decisions which cause harm. In particular, this might happen when an algorithm learns and evolves of its own accord.
The authors of the report confess that it was “not clear” to them or their witnesses whether “new mechanisms for legal liability and redress in such situations are required, or whether existing mechanisms are sufficient”. Their proposals, for securing some sort of prospective safety, echo Isaac Asimov’s three laws for robotics.
- A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
- A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
- A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
But these elaborations of principle may turn out to be merely semantic. The safety regime is not just a question of a few governments and tech companies agreeing on various principles. This is a global problem – and indeed even if Google were to get together with all the other giants in this field, Alibaba, Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Tencent, it may not be able to anticipate the consequences of building machines that can self-improve. Continue reading