The UK government is not prepared for the imminent arrival of robots, which will “fundamentally” change lives, take over jobs and raise serious ethical issues, MPs have warned.
Artificial intelligence (AI) such as driverless cars and supercomputers that can help doctors with medical diagnoses will soon be the norm, the Science Technology Committee says, but the government’s role in preparing for the change is “lacking.”
“Science fiction is slowly becoming science fact, and robotics and AI look destined to play an increasing role in our lives over the coming decades,” said Tania Mathias, the Tory acting chairwoman of the committee.
“It is too soon to set down sector-wide regulations for this nascent field but it is vital that careful scrutiny of the ethical, legal and societal ramifications of artificially intelligent systems begins now.”
The committee warned the government does not have a strategy in place for developing new skills to help workers succeed in a world with greater reliance on AI.
“Concerns about machines taking jobs and eliminating the need for human labor have persisted for centuries. Nevertheless, it is conceivable that we will see AI technology creating new jobs over the coming decades while at the same time displacing others,” Mathias said.
“Since we cannot yet foresee exactly how these changes will play out, we must respond with a readiness to reskill and upskill.
“This requires a commitment by the government to ensure that our education and training systems are flexible, so that they can adapt as opportunities and demands on the workforce change.”
The committee added there were ethical and social issues arising from the use of AI.
It said Google’s photo app, which automatically labels pictures, was reported to have classified images of black people as gorillas, and called for action to be taken to stop discrimination being accidentally built into AI systems.
Earlier this year, a report by Deloitte said a quarter of jobs in Britain’s business services sector would be taken over by robots in the next 20 years because of falling technology costs and rising wages.
Another report by the Big Four firm said more than 11 million jobs in the UK are at risk of automation, with the manufacturing, wholesale and retail, and professional, scientific and technical sectors to be hit the hardest.
The London Business School predicts jobs in law, medicine, architecture, communications and space technology would be performed by robotic workers in the next 20 years.
There have also been serious ethical concerns about artificial intelligence raised.
Sheffield University professor of robotics Noel Sharkey has warned teens may soon have their first sexual encounters with specifically-designed robotic dolls, saying the trend could ruin human relationships and have terrible consequences for humanity.
Last month, an entrepreneur who hopes to open London’s first “fellatio cafe” revealed his staff will be made up entirely of sex robots.
Businessman Bradley Charvet claims the sex-bot will be programmable to a person’s needs and will soon be seen as “totally normal.”