The Ada Lovelace Institute has said the UK government’s approach to artificial intelligence regulation is insufficient.

The independent research institute, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, says the ‘diffuse legal and regulatory network for AI currently has significant gaps’.

It has recommended the creation of an ombudsman and new institutions, along with clearer rights, to ensure that safeguards extend across the economy as foundation models such as Open AI’s ChatGPT tool become ever more popular and concerns grow around the potential for job displacement.

In March the government unveiled its first AI whitepaper, intended to guide the use of the technology to drive responsible innovation and maintain public trust in it. 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.

Government AI whitepaper principles ‘so vague as to be meaningless’

The Ada Lovelace Institute has analysed the proposals closely. It said that while the EU is legislating to implement a rules-based approach to AI governance, the UK is proposing a ‘contextual, sector-based regulatory framework’, anchored in its existing, diffuse network of regulators and laws.

It warned that this approach will not cover all contexts in which it is used, such as policing and central government, and fail to protect people from harm or give them a viable route to redress. To this end, it recommends the creation of an ombudsman to directly support those affected by AI.

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    It also called for regulators to be given appropriate resources and powers, alongside a statutory duty to adhere to AI principles, and for new rules around governance to be introduced far more quickly than the year or more the government has cited.

    “The government rightfully recognises that the UK has a unique opportunity to be a world leader in AI regulation and the prime minister should be commended for his global leadership on this issue,” said Michael Birtwistle, associate director at the Ada Lovelace Institute.

    “However, the UK’s credibility on AI regulation rests on the government’s ability to deliver a world leading regulatory regime at home. Efforts towards international coordination are very welcome, but they are not sufficient. 

    “The government must strengthen its domestic proposals for regulation if it wants to be taken seriously on AI and achieve its global ambitions.”

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