UK's AI fairy tale sets out on its yellow-brick roadmap

But what Faculty lies behind the plans for adoption and economic expansion?

The UK's AI Council could not have picked a worse week to launch its roadmap. As the world's media was understandably obsessing with the US panto-cum-insurrection season, who would highlight its attempt to put this island nation, newly unshackled from the EU, on a path to a 10 per cent GDP boost from AI by 2030?

Observers might have hoisted a few red flags when they looked at who is behind the body, charged with providing independent input to the UK's AI strategy, expected to come from the Office for Artificial Intelligence (a joint unit between the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport).

The AI company Faculty, something of a bête noire with the leftish media, has stuck its fingers in the pie of the AI Council, which has produced the AI Roadmap [PDF].

The company was a supplier to the Vote Leave campaign during the 2016 referendum deciding the UK's departure from the EU. As such, it became embroiled in accusations over the use of Facebook data and the Cambridge Analytica scandal, although it said it never "worked formally or informally with Cambridge Analytica" and denied its work has ever involved the use of "private Facebook data or so-called 'micro-targeting'."

Any concerns about Faculty's involvement may be down to paranoid media types disgruntled at a democratic decision with which they did not agree.

Nonetheless, the AI Roadmap talks about the need to "ensure public trust through public scrutiny."

"The UK must lead in finding ways to enable public scrutiny of, and input to, automated decision-making and help ensure that the public can trust AI," it said.

Far from leading the way, it took a legal campaign to crowbar any openness from the government in detailing how the NHS works with Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Faculty, and Palantir, the controversial US AI firm awarded an NHS data contract without inquiry.

Meanwhile, there has been a distinct lack of openness about why Dominic Cummings, former chief advisor to the UK Prime Minister, paid more than a quarter of a million pounds to Faculty over two years, according to reports.

But why not Faculty? It has proved successful in its field and is a leading UK AI firm. Then again, so has Onfido, the startup with more than $180m in funding focused on fraud prevention, and Graphcore, the Bristol-based AI chip designer that raised $222m to value it at $2.5bn over the Christmas period. Perhaps they are too busy being successful to be on the AI Council.

Anyway, back to the UK AI Roadmap. It said the "next few months and years will be crucial in determining where the UK places its desired level of ambition in AI."

A global arms race is afoot. Germany has committed €3.1bn to its AI strategy, France forked out €1.5bn up to 2022, and the US $1bn, the document explained.

"AI is a sovereign capability underpinning UK prosperity, security, resilience, diversity and sustainability," said Professor David Lane, founding director of the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics and an AI Council member.

To rise to the challenge, the roadmap sets out 16 fairly prosaic recommendations for a UK AI Strategy, which cover research, skills, data infrastructure and trust, and cross-sector adoption.

Since we're in the middle of a world-changing pandemic, the roadmap says the government should "build on the work of [NHS tech body] NHSX and others to lead the way in using AI to improve outcomes and create value in healthcare. The UK's comparative advantage will depend on smart strategies for data sharing, new partnership models with SMEs and skill-building."

Value for whom? some might ask. And they have asked already.

In 2017, the Information Commissioner's Office found London's Royal Free Hospital had failed to comply with data protection law in sharing patient data with DeepMind, a Google subsidiary incidentally also involved with the AI Council.

Canadian immunologist Sir John Bell, then chairman of the Office for Strategic Coordination of Health Research, described the case as the "canary in the coalmine". "I heard that story and thought 'Hang on a minute, who's going to profit from that?'" he said.

In any case, any practical step guiding AI in healthcare will have to wait for the National Health and Social Care Data Strategy, which isn't out yet.

Sam Smith, co-ordinator of campaign group medConfidential, said: "So-called 'smart' strategies for AI are some way off in health care, but that won't stop VCs and 'innovators' on the AI Council suggesting money moves away from things that work towards their pet projects that don't."

While private-sector companies like Google's DeepMind, MasterCard, and Faculty are represented on the AI Council, so are universities and the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation, a government body.

But work on AI in medicine has already come from elsewhere. The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, for example, has published its "Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare" report, but it does not factor in the AI Roadmap or the AI Council.

It should because the report contains a warning. "The 'social licence' that AI enjoys so far is a precious commodity. Historic controversy over genetically modified food perhaps demonstrates the consequences when the trust between science and the wider public breaks down. It should also serve as a warning to AI developers that they should not take public acceptance and trust for granted," it said [PDF].

The point was underscored by a 2020 case involving chatbot provider Babylon Health, which branded Dr David Watkins, consultant medical oncologist at Royal Marsden NHS, a "troll" for pointing out shortcomings in its system. Babylon Health is since said to have improved its systems.

Meanwhile, UK medical professionals are sweating buckets behind PPE, literally risking their lives in a face of a pandemic. They are the people key to AI adoption in the field but who are unlikely to care about the view of an AI Council on which they are under-represented.

The make-up of the council is set to raise suspicion that it will be used to justify whatever the government wants to do while doing little to assure the public or professional trust. The risk is its roadmap goes nowhere. ®

Similar topics

Other stories you might like

  • Everything you wanted to know about modern network congestion control but were perhaps too afraid to ask

    In which a little unfairness can be quite beneficial

    Systems Approach It’s hard not to be amazed by the amount of active research on congestion control over the past 30-plus years. From theory to practice, and with more than its fair share of flame wars, the question of how to manage congestion in the network is a technical challenge that resists an optimal solution while offering countless options for incremental improvement.

    This seems like a good time to take stock of where we are, and ask ourselves what might happen next.

    Congestion control is fundamentally an issue of resource allocation — trying to meet the competing demands that applications have for resources (in a network, these are primarily link bandwidth and router buffers), which ultimately reduces to deciding when to say no and to whom. The best framing of the problem I know traces back to a paper [PDF] by Frank Kelly in 1997, when he characterized congestion control as “a distributed algorithm to share network resources among competing sources, where the goal is to choose source rate so as to maximize aggregate source utility subject to capacity constraints.”

    Continue reading
  • How business makes streaming faster and cheaper with CDN and HESP support

    Ensure a high video streaming transmission rate

    Paid Post Here is everything about how the HESP integration helps CDN and the streaming platform by G-Core Labs ensure a high video streaming transmission rate for e-sports and gaming, efficient scalability for e-learning and telemedicine and high quality and minimum latencies for online streams, media and TV broadcasters.

    HESP (High Efficiency Stream Protocol) is a brand new adaptive video streaming protocol. It allows delivery of content with latencies of up to 2 seconds without compromising video quality and broadcasting stability. Unlike comparable solutions, this protocol requires less bandwidth for streaming, which allows businesses to save a lot of money on delivery of content to a large audience.

    Since HESP is based on HTTP, it is suitable for video transmission over CDNs. G-Core Labs was among the world’s first companies to have embedded this protocol in its CDN. With 120 points of presence across 5 continents and over 6,000 peer-to-peer partners, this allows a service provider to deliver videos to millions of viewers, to any devices, anywhere in the world without compromising even 8K video quality. And all this comes at a minimum streaming cost.

    Continue reading
  • Cisco deprecates Microsoft management integrations for UCS servers

    Working on Azure integration – but not there yet

    Cisco has deprecated support for some third-party management integrations for its UCS servers, and emerged unable to play nice with Microsoft's most recent offerings.

    Late last week the server contender slipped out an end-of-life notice [PDF] for integrations with Microsoft System Center's Configuration Manager, Operations Manager, and Virtual Machine Manager. Support for plugins to VMware vCenter Orchestrator and vRealize Orchestrator have also been taken out behind an empty rack with a shotgun.

    The Register inquired about the deprecations, and has good news and bad news.

    Continue reading
  • Protonmail celebrates Swiss court victory exempting it from telco data retention laws

    Doesn't stop local courts' surveillance orders, though

    Encrypted email provider Protonmail has hailed a recent Swiss legal ruling as a "victory for privacy," after winning a lawsuit that sees it exempted from data retention laws in the mountainous realm.

    Referring to a previous ruling that exempted instant messaging services from data capture and storage laws, the Protonmail team said this week: "Together, these two rulings are a victory for privacy in Switzerland as many Swiss companies are now exempted from handing over certain user information in response to Swiss legal orders."

    Switzerland's Federal Administrative Court ruled on October 22 that email providers in Switzerland are not considered telecommunications providers under Swiss law, thereby removing them from the scope of data retention requirements imposed on telcos.

    Continue reading
  • Japan picks AWS and Google for first gov cloud push

    Local players passed over for Digital Agency’s first project

    Japan's Digital Agency has picked Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud for its first big reform push.

    The Agency started operations in September 2021, years after efforts like the UK's Government Digital Service (GDS) or Australia's Digital Transformation Agency (DTA). The body was a signature reform initiated by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who spent his year-long stint in the top job trying to curb Japan's reliance on paper documents, manual processes, and faxes. Japan's many government agencies also operated their websites independently of each other, most with their own design and interface.

    The new Agency therefore has a remit to "cut across all ministries" and "provide services that are driven not toward ministries, agency, laws, or systems, but toward users and to improve user-experience".

    Continue reading
  • Singaporean minister touts internet 'kill switch' that finds kids reading net nasties and cuts 'em off ASAP

    Fancies a real-time crowdsourced content rating scheme too

    A Minister in the Singapore government has suggested the creation of an internet kill switch that would prevent minors from reading questionable material online – perhaps using ratings of content created in real time by crowdsourced contributors.

    "The post-COVID world will bring new challenges globally, including to us in the security arena," said Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen at a Tuesday ceremony to award the city-state's 2021 Defense Technology Prize.

    "For operations, the SAF (Singapore Armed Force) has to expand its capabilities in the digital domain. Whether for administrative or operational purposes, I think that we will need to leverage technology to the maximum," he declared.

    Continue reading
  • China Telecom booted out of USA as Feds worry it could disrupt or spy on local networks

    FCC urges more action against Huawei and DJI, too

    The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has terminated China Telecom's authority to provide communications services in the USA.

    In its announcement of the termination, the government agency explained the decision is necessary because the national security environment has changed in the years since 2002. That was when China Telecom was first allowed to operate in the USA.

    The FCC now believes – partly based on classified advice from national security agencies – that China Telecom can "access, store, disrupt, and/or misroute US communications, which in turn allow them to engage in espionage and other harmful activities against the United States." And because China Telecom is state-controlled, China's government can compel the carrier to act as it sees fit, without judicial review or oversight.

    Continue reading
  • Qualcomm gets news of modest Snapdragons out of the way before next month's big chip launch

    A little more oomph coming for cheaper smartphones

    Budget smartphones these days do OK with 5G though lack performance in other areas, and so Qualcomm has promised some system-on-chips to give these modest devices some more oomph.

    The processors, announced on Tuesday for entry and mid-range 5G smartphones, also clears the deck for big chip announcements Qualcomm is expected to make at its Snapdragon Tech Summit starting at the end of next month.

    The 6nm Snapdragon 695 5G, unveiled this week, is a successor to the 8nm 690 5G used in the OnePlus Nord N10 5G, which is priced under $300, and various other handhelds.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021