The Lords Select Committee recently issued a report: “AI in the UK: ready, willing and able?”. It outlines the burgeoning AI industry including the public understanding, engagement and design of AI and how the UK can become best placed to build and develop safe, secure and successful AI businesses.

Louis Halpern, Chairman of Active OMG, the British company behind the natural language conversational self-learning AI, Ami, spoke to Finance Monthly below.

AI will penetrate every sector of the economy and has tremendous potential to improve people's lives. I am pleased the report aims to set out a positive framework for the UK AI industry. However, the proposal is not enough to make the UK a leading destination to build and develop AI businesses. We embrace technology when it is safe, normal, and when it makes our lives better. If AI policy is directed at these elements we have the opportunity to make the UK a world leader.

For us at Active OMG safe means personal privacy. Consumers need to know their data is safe. We have to avoid the AI industry being tainted with Facebook Cambridge Analytica type scandals.

We use personal data so our clients’ customers have a better experience. When we apply the machine learning part of what we do the data is anonymised. We do not know if they are Mr or Mrs Jones, Chen or Blackwell. We are not concerned with the details of individuals. There is complete separation of personal and anonymised data.

Overcoming fear needs education, not reaction to “scandal’. The government should be educating individuals on how their data is going to be used and kept safe by the current legislation. We suggest a government information campaign, like the drink driving or Aids campaigns of the past. By explaining the data issue to people it will proactively help normalise AI.

The report talks about investing in Phd programs and cultivating AI companies directly from academic research. Yes, but we need to start programs in schools now to teach children how to use AI as a tool to thrive in a world where AI is normal. In the Pan Canada AI strategy they argued that AI should be taught alongside degrees, e.g. Sociology with AI. To become a leading AI nation, Britain must adopt a similar stance and ensure AI is intrinsic and everywhere.

Economies thrive on entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs will develop the AI that will change our lives, like the iPhone and the personal computer. These devices cut across every industry and benefit every consumer. Government needs to follow the same model. The report talks about specific Government departments and initiatives; these will stifle, not accelerate. Every Government department needs to set an example by making policy that puts AI at the heart of what they do. No western country has been this brave.

When electricity became available it’s light quickly illuminated everything. To be a world leader, the UK needs to ensure AI’s light shines in every corner.