The UK government has unveiled its first artificial intelligence whitepaper.

Intended to guide the use of AI, the document will look to drive responsible innovation and maintain public trust in the technology.

Amid the popularity of Open AI’s ChatGPT tool – capable of writing impressive copy and code in response to simple commands – more and more businesses are looking to harness the power of automation. 

However the increasing adoption has led to concerns over whether AI trained upon a narrow cross-section of society could lead to inherent biases – for example in the assessment of the worthiness of loan or mortgage applications – as well as the future risks it could pose to people’s privacy, human rights and safety. 

The whitepaper, published today, sets out a new approach to regulating AI and follows the creation of an expert taskforce to build the UK’s capabilities in foundation models, including large language models like ChatGPT, and £2 million funding for sandbox trial to help businesses test AI rules before getting to market.

It empowers existing regulators – such as the Health and Safety Executive, Equality and Human Rights Commission and Competition and Markets Authority – to come up with tailored, context-specific approaches that suit the way AI is being used in their sectors.

The five principles outlined are safety, security and robustness; transparency and explainability; fairness; accountability and governance; and contestability and redress. The latter says people need clear routes to dispute harmful outcomes or decisions generated by AI.

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AI already contributes £3.7 billion to the UK economy, says the government, with more than 50,000 people employed in an industry which boasts twice the number of companies of any other European country.

“AI has the potential to make Britain a smarter, healthier and happier place to live and work,” said Science, Innovation and Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan. “Artificial intelligence is no longer the stuff of science fiction, and the pace of AI development is staggering, so we need to have rules to make sure it is developed safely.

“Our new approach is based on strong principles so that people can trust businesses to unleash this technology of tomorrow.”

Businesses warmly welcomed initial proposals for this proportionate approach during a consultation last year and highlighted the need for more coordination between regulators to ensure the new framework is implemented effectively across the economy. As part of the whitepaper, the government is consulting on new processes to improve coordination between regulators as well as monitor and evaluate the AI framework, making changes to improve the efficacy of the approach if needed.

Organisations and individuals working with AI can share their views on the whitepaper as part of a new consultation launching today which will inform how the framework is developed in the months ahead.

Sue Daley, director for tech and innovation at techUK, said: “techUK welcomes the much-anticipated publication of the UK’s AI White Paper and supports its plans for a context-specific, principle-based approach to governing AI that promotes innovation. 

“The government must now prioritise building the necessary regulatory capacity, expertise, and coordination. techUK stands ready to work alongside government and regulators to ensure that the benefits of this powerful technology are felt across both society and the economy.”

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