Science, Innovation and Technology Committee issues interim report on governance AI

September 5, 2023

The Science, Innovation and Technology Committee has issued a report on the governance of AI.

It says that the recent rate of development has made debates regarding the governance and regulation of AI less theoretical, more significant, and more complex. It has also generated intense interest in how public policy can and should respond to ensure that the beneficial consequences of AI can be reaped whilst also safeguarding the public interest and preventing known potential harms, both societal and individual. There is a growing imperative to ensure governance and regulatory frameworks are not left irretrievably behind by the pace of technological innovation. The Committee says that policymakers must take measures to safely harness the benefits of the technology and encourage future innovations, whilst providing credible protection against harm.

The Committee has identified twelve challenges of AI governance, that policymakers and the frameworks the design must meet:

  • The Bias challenge. AI can introduce or perpetuate biases that society finds unacceptable. 
  • The Privacy challenge. AI can allow individuals to be identified and personal information about them to be used in ways beyond what the public wants.
  • The Misrepresentation challenge. AI can allow the generation of material that deliberately misrepresents someone’s behaviour, opinions or character.
  • The Access to Data challenge. The most powerful AI needs very large datasets, which are held by few organisations.
  • The Access to Compute challenge. The development of powerful AI requires significant compute power, access to which is limited to a few organisations.
  • The Black Box challenge. Some AI models and tools cannot explain why they produce a particular result, which is a challenge to transparency requirements.
  • The Open-Source challenge. Requiring code to be openly available may promote transparency and innovation; allowing it to be proprietary may concentrate market power but allow more dependable regulation of harms.
  • The Intellectual Property and Copyright challenge. Some AI models and tools make use of other people’s content: policy must establish the rights of the originators of this content, and these rights must be enforced.
  • The Liability challenge. If AI models and tools are used by third parties to do harm, policy must establish whether developers or providers of the technology bear any liability for harms done.
  • The Employment challenge. AI will disrupt the jobs that people do and that are available to be done. Policy makers must anticipate and manage the disruption.
  • The International Coordination challenge. AI is a global technology, and the development of governance frameworks to regulate its uses must be an international undertaking.
  • The Existential challenge. Some people think that AI is a major threat to human life: if that is a possibility, governance needs to provide protections for national security.

In March 2023, the UK Government sets out its proposed “pro-innovation approach to AI regulation” in the form of a white paper. It sets out five principles to frame regulatory activity, guide future development of AI models and tools, and their use. These principles would not initially be put on a statutory footing but interpreted and translated into action by individual sectoral regulators, with assistance from central support functions.

The Committee says that the AI white paper should be welcomed as an initial effort to engage with this complex task, but its view is that the paper’s proposed approach is already risking falling behind the pace of development of AI. This threat is made more acute by the efforts of other jurisdictions, principally the EU and the US, to set international standards. The Committee’s view is that a tightly focused AI Bill in the next King’s Speech would help to position the UK as an AI governance leader.