28 September 2023

IT professionals urge Rishi Sunak to make AI ethics a priority at safety summit

28 September 2023

The Prime Minister should put ethics high on the agenda when the UK hosts its AI Safety Summit in November, IT professionals have said.

A survey of professionals in the computing sector by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, found that a large majority (88%) of those asked would like to see Rishi Sunak ensure the UK takes an international lead on ethical standards in the use of AI.

The Government will host the summit at Second World War code-breaking hub Bletchley Park, where the opportunities and risks around the rise of artificial intelligence – particularly cutting-edge “frontier AI” tools such as ChatGPT – will be discussed.

Earlier this week, Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan said she hoped the summit could be used to establish some voluntary safety standards that AI labs and companies around the world working on the technology could follow.

It comes as the technology becomes increasingly prominent in day-to-day life, with regulators beginning to scrutinise the sector more intensely as concerns have appeared over the impact it could have on human life, including the creative arts, job market, and its potential use in cyber warfare.

The BCS survey found 82% of those asked believe that firms should be required to publish ethical policies on their use of AI, and 81% said those working within the space should be required to demonstrate their ethical credentials through recognised professional standards.

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

“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.”

In the survey, BCS members said they would like to see ethical standards implemented most quickly across the health and care sector, as well as in defence, criminal justice, banking and education.

A Government spokesperson said: “The focus of the global AI Safety Summit will be on frontier AI. This is where the risks are most novel and urgent, given how rapidly it is developing and its potential to exhibit dangerous capabilities.

“These discussions will complement work taking place in other international forums, where the UK has already been actively working with partners to develop ethical standards around AI.

“One of our key aims is to establish areas for potential collaboration on AI safety research, including evaluating capabilities and developing new standards to support how we govern AI.”

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