Parliamentary Committees and Public Enquiries
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We must fundamentally change the way we think about Artificial Intelligence

The Science, Innovation and Technology Committee publishes the last report of the 2019-24 Parliament, for its inquiry into the governance of Artificial Intelligence, examining domestic and international developments in the governance and regulation of AI since its August 2023 interim Report.

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The conclusions and recommendations of this report apply to whoever is in Government after the General Election. The Committee says that the current sectoral approach to regulation is right but the next Government should be ready to legislate on AI if it encounters gaps in the powers of any of the regulators to deal with the public interest in this fast developing field. 

The Committee revisits the Twelve Challenges of AI Governance set out in that interim Report with suggestions for how they might be addressed by policymakers. It identifies perhaps the most far-reaching challenge of AI as the way it can operate as a ‘black box’: the basis of and reasoning for its output may be unknowable, but it may nevertheless have very strong, and better than human, predictive powers.   

In the face of that overarching challenge, the Committee says that if the chain of reasoning cannot be viewed there must be stronger testing of the outputs of AI models, as a means to assess their power and acuity.

The report raises concern at suggestions the new AI Safety Institute has been unable to access some developers’ models to perform the pre-deployment safety testing that was intended to be a major focus of its work. The Committee calls on the next Government to identify any developers that refused pre-access to their models — in contravention of the agreement at the November 2023 Summit at Bletchley Park— and name them and report their justification for refusing. 

The Committee concludes that in a world in which AI developers command can vast resources, UK regulators must be equipped to hold them to account. The £10 million announced to support the UK’s sectoral regulators, particularly Ofcom, as they respond to the growing prevalence of AI in the private and public sectors will be “clearly insufficient to meet the challenge, particularly when compared to even the UK revenues of leading AI developers”.  

Chair's comments

Chair of the Science, Innovation and Technology Committee Rt Hon Greg Clark MP said:  

“The overarching 'black box' challenge of some AI models means we will need to change the way we think about assessing the technology.  Biases may not be detectable in the construction of models, so there will need to be a bigger emphasis on testing the outputs of model to see if they have unacceptable consequences.

“The Bletchley Park Summit resulted in an agreement that developers would submit new models to the AI Safety Institute. We are calling for the next government to publicly name any AI developers who do not submit their models for pre-deployment safety testing. It is right to work through existing regulators, but the next government should stand ready to legislate quickly if it turns out that any of the many regulators lack the statutory powers to be effective. We are worried that UK regulators are under-resourced compared to the finance that major developers can command.

“The current Government has been active and forward-looking on AI and has amassed a talented group of expert advisers in Whitehall. Important challenges await the next administration and in this, the Committee’s final substantive report of this Parliament, we set out an agenda that the new Government should follow to attain the transformational benefits of AI while safeguarding hard-won public protections.”

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