HAL 9000 and the rise of irresponsible artificial intelligence

Richard Groves

6th October 2020

“I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that”. This is the infamous line that makes Dr Dave Bowman realise his artificial intelligence (AI) companion ‘HAL’ has gone rogue. Sort of. Actually HAL is simply obeying the orders he’d been given; to protect the mission at all costs.

Much like HAL, AI isn’t capable of ‘being evil’ and doing bad things, it just carries out the actions humans have programmed it to do. It’s simply a complicated tool. But like any tool, it has to be used responsibly. And as it turns out, the UK is struggling in this particular sector.

Even though the UK leads the world when it comes to government use of AI, it’s been reported by Oxford Insights and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) that we trail far behind many other countries when it comes to responsible use of AI. The UK scored a measly 22nd out of all countries surveyed, with Nordic-Baltic countries leading the way for responsible use. The criterion for responsible use tracks inclusivity, accountability, transparency and privacy.

Unfortunately, irresponsible use of AI can have catastrophic consequences for communities throughout the UK, promoting further economic and societal inequality. This risks further entrenching complex issues, something that Richard Stirling - CEO of Oxford Insights - was keen to comment on; “Nations from the US, UK to Russia, China and Israel need to ensure that as they implement AI technologies, they do it in a way that benefits all their citizens.” Without taking these issues into consideration, the UK runs the risk of failing to protect the rights of its citizens and avoid any discrimination resulting from AI implementation.

A high-profile story earlier this year revealed that the Metropolitan Police had been using the services of a controversial American-based facial recognition firm, Clearview AI. The company’s database is comprised of billions of photos, which are then utilised by advanced AI to identify an individual’s location and name, along with other personal information. The Mets use of this system exemplifies the concerns raised by Oxford Insight’s report. As AI becomes further ingrained within policing and governing procedures, issues surrounding the legality and accountability of such measures may get lost by the wayside. Stirling identifies this, and urges the leaders of nations to be mindful while “capitalising on AI’s potential, [to] also have protocols and regulations in place to ensure implementation is ethical, transparent and inclusive.”

It’s no secret that big tech companies such as Google and Facebook utilise our information for targeted advertisements, with their AI systems constantly trawling through big-data and evolving.

But it’s not all bad.

AI has aided hugely in the healthcare sector, with machine learning assisting pathologists more accurately diagnose cancers and help steer any subsequent specialised treatment. At Harvard, AI-enhanced microscopes are being used on blood samples, scanning for harmful bacterias at rates unseen using the traditional manual methods. All with a 95% accuracy rate.

These are great strides for society to be taking, but the implementation of such technology must be responsibly done. Tracking reports that rank the UK’s readiness of effective and ethical AI execution, allows its citizens to stay informed and ultimately voice their opinions on introductory protocols.

One thing AI can’t do however, is create meaningful connections with clients. Sure, it can compile every piece of our online data, but people are complex and more than a list of zeroes and ones. We’re firm believers in human expertise and experience, so that’s what we offer - somebody on the end of the phone to create tailored solutions and support your business needs. Not an automated system or useless online chatbot.

We all just want to get on with the stuff we’re good at, and remove the stress of the things we’re not. To spend time on targeted projects, and save it on the surrounding fluff. Saving clients’ time is the mantra that underpins everything we do at Impelling, and it’s the impetus behind our IT solutions. Our Managed IT service, gives you peace of mind that when called upon, your IT systems will just work. That you never have to worry about asking your computer to do something, and it reply with “I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

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