UK digital minister: AI needs a 'strong framework that carries the legitimate consent of the people'

Matt HancockBusiness Insider/Sam SheadDigital minister Matt Hancock.

UK digital minister Matt Hancock hinted on Tuesday that the government will look to start regulating companies and scientists working in the field of artificial intelligence (AI).

Speaking at the CogX AI conference in London, Hancock stressed the potential that AI has to change the world we live in but said that the technology must be regulated by a suitable framework.

“We need to make sure that there is a strong framework that carries the legitimate consent of the people but that can allow and encourage innovation and can be flexible and move fast too,” Hancock said.

He added: “Some might say we should get out of the way and allow the technology to develop. Some say that the risks around the technology are too great and that we should not encourage development at all. But I would reject both of these extreme arguments.

Elon MuskScanpix/Heiko Junge/via REUTERSCEO of Tesla Motors Elon Musk.

“In almost every area of life we live in a framework of good, decent, and legal behaviour. In the best cases, in liberal democracies, this carries the legitimate consent of the people too. And a good framework allows innovation — fast and sometimes disruptive innovation — and allows new technology and especially a new underpinning technology that requires a regulatory and governance environment that can move fast too.”

Many scientists believe that AI will be as smart as humans within the next few decades and some, including Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom believe machines will quickly outsmart humans when this happens.

Scientists such as Stephen Hawking and renowned business leaders like Elon Musk and Bill Gates have warned that AI could be incredibly dangerous if it’s not developed in the right way — for example, if biases creep into the data sets that self-learning algorithms are trained on.

Hawking told the BBC that it could wipe out humanity, for example, while Musk said the technology could be “more dangerous than nukes”. But AI could also be used to help find a cure for cancer, control autonomous cars, and significantly cut energy consumption.

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