How does the Government propose to govern AI?
On 31 August 2023, the Science, Innovation and Technology Committee1 (the “Committee”) published an interim report on the governance of AI. This report highlighted and gave recommendations about how policymakers should address twelve key challenges of AI governance through domestic and international engagement. Such challenges included bias, privacy, IP and copyright, liability and employment (see the full report here).
On 16 November 2023, the Government published its response to the Committee’s report. Key takeaways include:
- The Government is setting up a central AI risk function within the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) to monitor AI risks.
- Schools should place greater emphasis on digital skills and there will be increased opportunities for adults retraining in STEM subjects such as AI, cybersecurity and data analytics.
- No AI specific legislation will be introduced immediately. DSIT will work with other Government departments to develop the UK regulatory approach, including risk monitoring activity to co-ordinate mitigations.
- Members of the Frontier AI Taskforce (now renamed as the AI Safety Institute) and its terms of reference have been confirmed and will focus on the safe and reliable development and deployment of advanced AI systems.
- There will be continued involvement in international AI safety initiatives including the G7 Hiroshima AI Process, the UN's global digital compact and international standards development.
- Following the hosting of the AI Safety Summit at Bletchley Park, the Government will attend future AI summits in South Korea and France.
- The Government will provide an update to its regulatory approach in its response to the AI regulation white paper consultation before the end of 2023.
The Government states that its actions in attempting to develop policies and its international engagement shows it is committed to AI governance and regulation. Its responses do provide some insight into how it proposes to tackle these but a great deal of what it has set out above is repetition of earlier statements from various other departments and bodies tasked with dealing with the same. Time will tell whether all of the press releases actually translate into meaningful regulation and/or standardisation.
It will also be interesting to compare how the UK’s approach to AI governance and regulation differs to that of the EU, through the proposed EU AI Act). Although the EU has initially appeared to take a much more horizontal approach to the regulation of AI, regulating the technology rather than its outputs, it now appears that various Member States are proposing a softer approach to AI governance (see here, subscription required) than was previously imagined. Perhaps the UK’s approach, to “wait and see” how the technology develops and how it is used in specific industry sectors, is catching on in popularity.
 The Science, Innovation and Technology Committee was appointed by the House of Commons to scrutinise DSIT policies and spending.