Manchester researchers stress need for socially responsible AI

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics are expected to have a major impact on a wide array of fields. But in the scramble to deploy the technology, policymakers, employers and regulators must ensure it is deployed in a responsible way.

socially responsible AI

This is the central argument of a new report, “On AI and Robotics: Developing policy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution”, published by policy@Manchester, a University of Manchester initiative set up to connect researchers to those working on policy.

According to one of the authors of the report, Dr Barbara Ribeiro, the development of new Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology is often subject to bias, and the resulting systems can be discriminatory, meaning more should be done by policymakers to ensure its development is democratic and socially responsible.

“Just like with any other new technology policymakers must not take for granted what they currently understand as the public benefit or public value of AI,” said Ribeiro. “Instead they should let the potential end users and beneficiaries explain their own concerns.”

Ribeiro added that because investment into AI will essentially be paid for by taxpayers in the long-term, policymakers need to make sure that the benefits of such technologies are fairly distributed throughout society. “Ensuring social justice in AI development is essential,” she said. “AI technologies rely on big data and the use of algorithms, which influence decision-making in public life and on matters such as social welfare, public safety and urban planning.”

“In these ‘data-driven’ decision-making processes some social groups may be excluded, either because they lack access to devices necessary to participate or because the selected datasets do not consider the needs, preferences and interests of marginalised and disadvantaged people.”

The report also looks at the area of robotics and stresses the need for increased awareness of the capabilities and limitations of robotic technology, and on how it can be transferred into industry.

“The transfer of robotics technology into industry, and in particular the nuclear industry, requires cultural and societal changes as well as technological advances,” said Professor Barry Lennox, who heads up the University of Manchester’s Robotics Group,

“It is really important that regulators are aware of what robotic technology is and is not capable of doing today, as well as understanding what the technology might be capable of doing over the next -5 years.”