The British Prime Minister Theresa May used her speech at the World Economic Forum on 25 January 2018 to set out her view on the part that information and communication technology (ICT) plays in modern society. During her speech she highlighted the many benefits that novel and emerging technologies are likely to create. One key technology currently widely discussed is artificial intelligence, where the UK has a leading role. The economic and societal benefits that a broader use of AI can bring are enormous.
However, AI as well as other novel ICTs can have numerous undesirable consequences. Bernd Stahl, Director of the Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility at De Montfort University, commented “The downsides of new technology can range from lower employment to malicious use by hackers or terrorists, all the way up to a changing understanding of what it means to be human.”
Professor Marina Jirotka, Professor of Human Centred Computing at the University of Oxford agreed, adding “This is an admirable goal that will require significant input from a range of stakeholders. Key to its achievement will be the new Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation, announced in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement in 2017.”
ORBIT welcomes the Prime Minister’s reiterated commitment to ensuring that new technologies contribute to the public good and work for everyone, as well as the promise that her government will continue to legislate accordingly. ORBIT is looking forward to engaging with government on how to ensure the ethical development and use of ICT.
ORBIT is the Observatory for Responsible Research and Innovation in ICT. Led by Oxford and De Montfort Universities and funded in the launch phase by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), ORBIT provides policy advice, training on responsible research and innovation (RRI), consultancy, project assessment, support services, and an online community for ICT researchers. Further information can be found at www.orbit-rri.org.
Martin de Heaver is managing director of ORBIT, formerly Executive Director at CPC and has founded and run a number of new and established enterprises. He has also been supporting new entrepreneurs as a judge and mentor at the London Business School since 2004. He has delivered research projects funded by EU frameworks 4/5 and 7 and InnovateUK, and is a former Visiting Senior Research Fellow at King’s College London.
Professor Marina Jirotka is Professor of Human Centred Computing at Oxford University and ORBIT investigator. She undertakes work focused on deepening societal comprehension of the impacts of technology and ameliorating negative effects by anticipating outcomes. She leads the human centred computing group, an interdisciplinary research group that aims to understand the ways in which technology affects communication, collaboration and knowledge exchange within scientific, work and home settings.
Professor Bernd Stahl is Director of the Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility at De Montfort University and ORBIT investigator. His interests include philosophical issues arising from the intersections of business, technology, and information. This includes the ethics of ICT and critical approaches to information systems. He specialises in advising on the ethical issues arising from emerging technologies and how responsible research and innovation principles can use anticipatory governance approaches to help ensure improved outcomes for research.