Putting AI, fairness, law and order into smart cities

Monday 12 November 2018

Artificial intelligence (AI). It is hard to find a media source not promoting this Next Big Thing in technology. But where does the hype stop, and the insight start?

One ‘don’t miss’ event will be ‘Transforming Cities with AI: Law, Policy, and Ethics’ – the Information Law and Policy Centre’s (ILPC) Annual Conference at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies in London next week (23 November).

And its headline attraction will be the ILPC’s Annual Lecture by Baroness Onora O’Neill, a leading philosopher in politics, justice and ethics, a crossbench member of the House of Lords and a board member of the University of Cambridge’s Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence (LCFI).

The lecture launches the conference, which features policymakers, practitioners, industry, civil society and academic experts who will examine the laws and policies that govern and regulate the AI-driven systems that are changing our daily interactions, communications and relationships.

Baroness O’Neill is one of a stellar gathering of speakers and personalities. They include: Tony Porter (surveillance camera commissioner); Silkie Carlo (chief executive of Big Brother Watch): Sophia Adams Bhatti (director of legal and regulatory policy, Law Society of England and Wales); Chief Superintendent David Powell, head of intelligence and analysis, Hampshire Constabulary); Helena Vrabec (legal and privacy officer, Palantir Technologies).

Promises abound that AI technologies, like machine learning, could play a major role in developing safer, more sustainable and equitable cities. It has already made positive contributions to the collection and analysis of data that benefit us daily.

These include how we communicate and travel, the increasing speed and depth of medical research through enhanced pattern recognition. In addition, insights from traffic flows enable tailored and environmentally friendly transport systems that will contribute to more sustainable and efficient cities.

There are concerns, however, about the development and governance of cities based on ‘Big Data’ and complex processes of automated decision-making, like wide-scale use of facial recognition, the tracking of wearables, and predictive analysis. Could these mark the beginning of an entrenched encroachment on autonomy, liberty and privacy?

Hence, as Baroness O’Neill warns, governments and organisations need to let the public know that these technologies are ‘trustworthy’. This means asking whether the institutions concerned are ‘competent, honest and reliable’ in these matters.

This apprehensiveness sits alongside the knowledge that the effective, lawful and ethical governance of these systems could serve the public interest. Take for example AI-driven systems (like predictive policing) which could help prevent crime and ensure public safety.

Participants will provide a range of national and international legal and policymaking perspectives and insights from the UK, Europe and China as they examine the UK Data Protection Act 2018, the UK Human Rights Act 1998 and the UN’s international framework for strategic social responsibility – the Sustainable Development Goals.

The ILPC’s Annual Conference and Lecture, Transforming Cities with AI: Law, Policy, and Ethics, will take place on Friday, 23 November, 9.30am–5.30pm, at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, 17 Russell Square, London WC1B 5DR. An evening reception follows.


Notes for editors:

  1. For further information, please contact Maureen McTaggart, Media and Public Relations Officer, School of Advanced Study, University of London. maureen.mctaggart@sas.ac.uk / 020 7862 8653. Images available on request.
  2. The Information Law and Policy Centre (ILPC), part of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, produces, promotes, and facilitates research about the law and policy of information and data, and the ways in which law both restricts and enables the sharing, and dissemination, of different types of information.
  3. The Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (IALS) was founded in 1947. It was conceived, and is funded, as a national academic institution, attached to the University of London, serving all universities through its national legal research library. Its function is to promote, facilitate, and disseminate the results of advanced study and research in the discipline of law, for the benefit of persons and institutions in the UK and abroad. Find out more at www.ials.sas.ac.uk
  4. The School of Advanced Study (SAS), University of London, is the UK’s national centre for the promotion and support of research in the humanities. SAS and its member institutes offer unparalleled resources, facilities and academic opportunities across a wide range of subject areas for the benefit of the national and international scholarly community. Last year SAS welcomed 786 research fellows and associates, held 2,007 events highlighting the latest research in the humanities, received 24.4 million online visits to its research resources and platforms, and hosted 194,145 visits to its specialist libraries and collections. The School also leads Being Human, the UK’s only nationwide festival of the humanities. Find out more at www.sas.ac.uk or follow SAS on Twitter at @SASNews.
  5. The University of London is a federal University and is one of the oldest, largest and most diverse universities in the UK. Established by Royal Charter in 1836, the University is recognised globally as a world leader in Higher Education. Its members are 18 self-governing member institutions of outstanding reputation, and nine research institutes. Learn more about the University of London at http://www.london.ac.uk