Data Ethics and Artificial Intelligence

The Nuffield Foundation is working in partnership to establish an independent body to tackle the ethical and social issues arising from data use, artificial intelligence (AI) and associated technologies.

With a working title of Convention on Data Ethics and Artificial Intelligence, this independent body will seek to ensure that the power of data – and the automated technologies that serve to augment it – is harnessed to promote human flourishing, both for society as a whole and for different groups within it. The convention will have three main aims:

  • Represent the interests of society in debates on ethical data use at a national and international level.
  • Promote and support a common set of data practices that are deserving of trust, and are understandable, challengeable and accountable.
  • Convene different interests to develop shared terminology for data ethics and promote human flourishing.
Why data ethics?

Rapid advances in data, algorithms and artificial intelligence have huge potential for social well-being, but there is also unease about the implications for the distribution of public goods and services, the rights of the citizen in relation to the state, and the concentration of information held by the global tech sector.

Underlying these issues is one of the most pressing questions of our time: what is the future of human agency in a world of manufactured intelligence?

We believe the role of data ethics in addressing this question is to ensure that innovations in data and AI are deployed according to codes of behaviour that are understood by the public and deserving of their trust.

How will the convention operate?

The convention will complement the regulatory framework provided by the ICO, and the wider oversight or ‘stewardship’ to be provided by the government’s Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation. The convention will be independent of government, have an international perspective, and offer practical solutions based on empirical research. In order to operate in a meaningful way, it will need to have the tech industries at its heart.

We envisage the Convention to comprise of people with recognised expertise in data science, social science, law, and philosophy. Supported by an executive, they will commission projects through working parties in order to bring specialist expertise to address specific questions. The Convention will generate not only recommendations, but also ideas, best practice, software, benevolent algorithms – whatever might be the most salient response to the issue in question.

When will the convention be up and running?

We are developing plans in consultation with our partners, and holding a series of workshops to engage with a wider group of stakeholders. Following that, we will appoint a Chair, with the aim of establishing the convention by the end of 2018.

Working in partnership

The proposal for a Convention on Data Ethics and Artificial Intelligence has been developed in partnership with Tech UK, The Alan Turing Institute, The Royal Society, the Royal Statistical Society, the British AcademyOmidyar Network, the Wellcome Trust and others.