An Interesting Report

An Interesting Report

I wonder what you think about Parliament? If someone told you they were an MP or a member of the House of Lords, what would you think? 

It is easy to attack an institution, and overlook the good that it does. For example, Parliament has many Select Committees, whose members work hard to seek the best approach to some of the complex issues facing our society.

One of these committees, the House of Lords Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence, has recently published a substantial report: AI in the UK: ready, willing and able?  The introduction of AI is having an ever increasing impact on our economy and our lives. Robots are getting much cleverer, and so are the computer programmes which govern so much of our lives. Several jobs that used to be done by human beings are being replaced by robots and computers, who have the advantage of not needing to be paid, who never go on holiday, and who never go on strike. The perfect employee!

The increasing use of AI in our society poses significant ethical questions, and the Select Committee report rightly focuses on the need for our society to think through these ethical issues. For example, if a computer or robot makes a mistake, who is legally liable?  Should we insist that a computer or robot has a “conscience”, and if so, what might such a “conscience” look like?

These sorts of questions need to be discussed by society at large. What sort of future do we want? What sort of decisions do we wish to delegate to our machines? Are there certain roles which, from a moral point of view, must be performed by human beings, and not by a machine? What are the implications for education and social justice? Will the increasing use of AI simply allow the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer?

The Christian tradition contains 2000 years of reflection on what it means to be human, and how we can create caring and just societies. It is a rich and diverse tradition, which has a valuable contribution to make in our exploration of the ethical dimensions of AI. How can we make good choices in the years ahead? And what might a good choice look like? Let the debate commence! 

Fr Jason