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UK MPs call for AI commission to tackle the ‘Star Wars’-style future

The U.K. is not ready for how artificial intelligence (AI) will "fundamentally reshape" the way we live and work, lawmakers warned in a report on Wednesday.

U.K. members of parliament (MPs) have called for the creation of an artificial intelligence (AI) commission to examine the effect new technologies will have on society.

"Artificial intelligence has some way to go before we see systems and robots as portrayed in the creative arts such as Star Wars," Tania Mathias, interim chair of the U.K. parliament's science and technology select committee, said in a statement.

"But 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."


Star Wars C-3PO (R) R2D2 and BB-8 (R) arrive on stage at the 88th Oscars on February 28, 2016 in Hollywood, California.
Mark Ralston | AFP | Getty Images
Star Wars C-3PO (R) R2D2 and BB-8 (R) arrive on stage at the 88th Oscars on February 28, 2016 in Hollywood, California.

Mathias added that it was "too soon" to set up sector-wide regulations for such a nascent field of technology, but "it is vital that careful scrutiny of the ethical, legal and societal ramifications of artificially intelligent systems begins now."

The world's largest technology companies, including Google and Facebook, have been investing heavily in artificial intelligence, which is set to power new technologies from driverless cars to personal assistants. But it is also being used in the medical profession to help diagnose illnesses.

British MPs said that such breakthroughs raise "a host of questions for society, including ethical issues about the transparency of AI decision-making as well as privacy and safety".

They propose setting up a commission that can examine the social, ethical and legal implications of developments in AI.

The U.K. has been a hotbed of AI start-ups, some of which have been acquired by U.S. technology giants. Microsoft acquired London-based Swiftkey earlier this year for $250 million, while Google bought DeepMind in 2014. Still, Mathias argues that the government has not taken any leadership on AI developments.

Experts predict that AI could have a huge impact on the workforce. AI will take 6 percent of jobs by 2021, according to a study last month by Forrester Research.

Mathias called on the government to make sure education in schools and training systems are up-to-date to deal with the workforce change.

"It is conceivable that we will see AI technology creating new jobs over the coming decades while at the same time displacing others. Since we cannot yet foresee exactly how these changes will play out, we must respond with a readiness to re-skill and up-skill," Mathias said.