Co-founder of ethical AI institute calls for “global standard” in technology development

Artificial Intelligence, Education Sector, Ethics

The Institute for Ethical AI in Education should lead the world on a uniform global standard that would oversee the development of the technology, one of its founders has said.

Sir Anthony Seldon, Vice-Chancellor of Buckingham University, and co-founder of the IEAIED with Professor Rose Luckin, the director of UCL EDUCATE and Priya Lakhani, the CEO of CENTURY Tech, told a session of the Festival of Education, at Wellington College, that it was the best way of protecting learners around the world.

Sir Anthony, who was participating in a panel discussion entitled Leading by example: ethical innovation and AI in education, told delegates that AI development posed a bigger risk to humans than climate change, because “big money” was being thrown at hastening its development, just as it was being used to halt global warming.

But, he said, there was no guarantee that people would stop some of the worst excesses facing the 4.0 revolution. Sir Anthony said: “We already have technology that is cleverer than we are, technology that knows us better than our parents, children, partners know us. In 15 years’ time, that AI technology will much more powerful.

“The reason this is serious is that while there is money on the side of sorting out global warming, there is also big money behind technology happening quicker.” He said it was in the interests of young people that AI was developed safely and ethically.

Asked what he hoped would be achieved by the Institute, Sir Anthony said: “We need a global standard about how we can use AI to make the most of every child the world. It is in the interests of everyone to get behind this.”

Billie Downie, head of The Streetly Academy, in Birmingham, and a member of the IEAIED advisory board and of the Department for Education’s EdTech leadership team, said discussions were already underway about drafting a series of standards around ethical AI development.

His school, which has been working with CENTURY Tech – a member of Cohort 1 of the UCL EDUCATE programme – said he found some of the applications of AI “electrifying” while others were potentially “terrifying” in the manner in which it could profile students, and this had led him to become involved with the IEAIED.

He said: “We are in a business that is predominantly ethical. People come into education because they want to make a difference, and if you ask anyone their most feel-good moment it is not when they get salary at the end of the month.

“As such, I feel a duty to protect young people and not to underestimate their ability to sleepwalk into the dangers of all this.”

One of his big concerns, he said, was that not all children might have access to technology, nor understand how it can help them. “AI is potentially the most levelling and empowering form of technology we have ever seen, but I am concerned that it can widen the gaps in cultural and learning capital among those students who don’t have the guidance to know or understand how to use it,” Mr Downie said.

He added that as a pioneer in EdTech development, the UK needed to lead the way on global standards.

“This is an important piece of work, and while we cannot expect every country to adhere to same values, we can set out parameters as guidance,” he said. “We might not have the best education system in the world, but we are thought leaders on this in the UK, and we should take on a global remit.”


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