‘Very beneficial – or very dangerous’: MPs warn of urgent need for AI regulation

Written by Zoe Crowther on 5 May 2023 in News

Conservative and Labour MPs call for more focus from the top of government

Credit: Gerd Altmann/Pixabay

Conservative and Labour MPs have called on the government to “act now” on regulating rapidly advancing AI technology.

Tory MP and former justice secretary Robert Buckland warned against the government “sleepwalking” into a dangerous position with AI.

Buckland has been considering how AI could benefit the severely overstretched judiciary system, but believes “evolutionary principles-based regulation” is needed to mitigate potential risks to justice and human rights.

“I suspect without that we're going to accidentally end up in a position which we didn't intend,” he told PublicTechnology sister publication PoliticsHome. “We need to not only be a leader but an exemplar, and if it just becomes a global race [to advance AI technology], we've got a problem – because a global race is all about who's fastest to the draw, not about how safe it is.”

He has called for top level government attention to be given to regulation of AI and its impact. “Ultimately it should be the prime minister looking at this, because I think it's going to take a national leadership,” the former secretary of state said. 

Senior Conservative MP and former minister David Davis compared AI to nuclear power.

“Like nuclear power, AI could be very beneficial… or very dangerous,” he told PoliticsHome

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But Davis was concerned there was a huge knowledge gap between people developing AI technology, and those considering its real world implications. He pointed to news that the so-called ‘godfather of AI’ Geoffrey Hinton had quit Google, citing concerns over misinformation, possible disruption to the job market, and the “existential risk” posed by AI.

“When one of the leading brains, Geoffrey Hinton, says he doesn't fully understand the AI out there, how can the public or ministers?,” Davis continued. 

He believes regulation is needed to ensure that those who design or deploy AI are held “absolutely responsible” for the consequences of artificial intelligence. 

Labour MP and former government minister Kevin Brennan is also worried that government regulation is not keeping pace with the evolution of technology, and is particularly concerned about the impact of AI on the UK’s creative industries. 

On Wednesday he posed a Commons question to interim technology secretary Chloe Smith asking for assurance that AI will be “properly regulated” to make sure creative content is protected. 

Responding to Brennan’s questions, Smith said she was meeting with industry that day and intended to address how the technology could be regulated to protect creative work. 

“The UK has copyrights and intellectual property, we know how important those are for the continued success of the creative industries, we want to maintain them,” Smith said. “And therefore that will be a focus as we take this work forward.”

Brennan told PoliticsHome that while he recognises the benefits of AI in areas such as medicine, the government needs to ensure the AI landscape does not become a “wild west”.

Brennan accused the government of “not facing up” to profound issues and called for more transparency from companies on how they are training AI to use creative output. 

“I think those profound ethical questions are unresolved and the government is not facing up to resolving them because it thinks it might stymie the rapid development of AI and lose the race to be the global leaders,” he said.

Read PoliticsHome’s full story here


About the author

Zoe Crowther is a social media journalist at PublicTechnology sister publication PoliticsHomewhere a version of this story originally appeared. She tweets as @zoenora6.


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