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Response to Prime Minister's speech on national centre for ethical oversight of AI

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Theresa May gave an address today at the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting in Davos in which she outlined plans for a national Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation in the UK. The plans reflect calls by The British Academy and Royal Society for a stewardship body to ensure that we make sure these data-enabled technologies, already in all of our lives, work for the benefit of everyone.

Professor Genevra Richardson FBA, co-chair of the British Academy and Royal Society’s data governance report says:

"As data collection activities continue to increase and as analytical techniques used to process data become more sophisticated, individuals and communities are affected in new and unexpected ways. In a period of rapid change, data management and use needs to be informed by ethical principles which will require insights from the humanities and social sciences, alongside science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Disciplines like law, ethics and psychology will be invaluable in tackling these new challenges.

“We welcome the Prime Minister’s plans for the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation, following our joint recommendations last year. We look forward to working with the government to support and advise on the formation of the CDEI and the appropriate governance of data and artificial intelligence.”

Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser FRS, co-chair of the British Academy and Royal Society’s data governance report, says:

“In the UK we have world class expertise in data science, ethics and our rapidly growing tech sector. The Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation is an opportunity for the UK to use these strengths to lead the way internationally in responding to the ethical and social impacts of new uses of data.

“The magnitude of the opportunities and changes ahead requires a thoughtful, inclusive, innovative and forward looking approach, with the central aim of supporting human flourishing.

“The CDEI should have a firm focus on emerging and future challenges, whilst working with existing structures that already provide a great deal of what is necessary for the here and now. It is also vital that the CDEI works transparently and through open dialogue, so that it earns and builds public trust and confidence, which are essential to enable the safe and rapid uptake of data-enabled technologies for the benefit of all.”

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