MPs raise concerns about AI ‘explosion’ and call for UK to form global standards

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MPs have raised concerns about the recent “explosion” of artificial intelligence (AI) and called for the UK to lead the world in developing global standards for the new field.

Tory former minister Tim Loughton argued that AI potentially poses the same level of “moral dilemma” as advances in medical technology, whilst Labour’s Darren Jones said people are “rightly worried” about how it could affect the political process.

Mr Jones, who chairs the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, asked ministers what steps they are currently taking to “protect” the integrity of elections in light of artificial intelligence used to create convincing images, audio and video hoaxes.

Science Secretary Chloe Smith, who is replacing Michelle Donelan whilst on maternity leave, said the Government is promoting “our vision for a global ecosystem that balances innovation and the use of AI”.

Their comments came during Science and Technology questions in the Commons.

AI has been on the rise in recent years, with ChatGPT, a form of generative AI, coming to prominence in recent months after a version was released to the public last year.

Mr Loughton told MPs: “When advances in medical technology around genetic engineering, for example, raise sensitive issues, we have debates on medical ethics, we adapt legislation and put in place robust regulation and oversight.

“The explosion in AI potentially poses the same level of moral dilemma and it is open to criminal use, for fraud, impersonation and by malign players such as the Chinese government for example.

“As leaders in AI, what should the UK be doing to balance safety with opportunity and innovation?”

Ms Smith said the Government recognises “many technologies can pose a risk when in the wrong hands”, adding: “The UK is a global leader in AI, with the strategic advantage that places us at the forefront of these developments.

“Now, through UK leadership, including at the OECD and the G7, the Council of Europe and more, we are promoting our vision for a global ecosystem that balances innovation and the use of AI underpinned by our shared values, of course, of freedom, fairness, and democracy.

“Our approach will be proportionate, pro-innovative and adaptable.”

On the risk posed by AI to the UK’s democratic processes, Mr Jones later asked: “With elections under way and a general election due next year, people are rightly concerned about the fake videos, images, and audio being created by artificial intelligence.

“Can the Secretary of State confirm to the House what actions her department is taking to protect the integrity of our democratic processes in that context?”

MP portraits
Labour’s Darren Jones (Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament)

On ensuring the UK can benefit from AI, Mr Clark said: “At its best, Britain has been highly influential in setting international standards, combining confidence with security.

“Does she agree with the chair of the business select committee (Darren Jones) and myself that the UK should now seize the initiative and set out an international approach to the standards in AI so that we can gain all of the benefits that come from AI but make sure we don’t suffer the harms…?

Ms Smith responded: “I think the short answer there is yes.”

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