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Who is responsible in the age of intelligent machines?

Ahmed Razek

Technologist, Blue Room

On 7th October, the BBC Blue Room will host its annual Media, Tech & Society conference. The theme this year is around the critical issue of responsibility, particularly within AI systems.

News stories about Artificial Intelligence seem to be ever-present in the media - AI is now a mainstream topic. We only have to look at some high-profile developments over the last year to realise how pressing issues of responsibility have become:

These examples go some way towards highlighting the importance of responsible design, development and deployment - the ethos of ‘move fast and break things’ may no longer be fit for the future.

What it means to be responsible in an AI-driven world will differ between organisations – but for the BBC, the guiding principles in developing responsible AI services are set out as follows:

  • We are independent of commercial and political interests
  • We want to see equitable benefits for all sections of society
  • We are transparent in the way we use data and accountable to our audiences for how our machine learning works

This last point is particularly crucial. For decades the BBC editorial guidelines have acted as a framework to hold journalists to the highest editorial standards. As our technology becomes increasingly dependent on machine learning, similar guidelines that hold the BBC's engineers and data scientists to the highest standards will need to be in place

Informing the debate, bringing partners together, demonstrating responsible technical development and engaging with wider industry all sit at the heart of the BBC’s approach to AI.

This year’s Media, Tech & Society conference will be the boldest, most creative and distinctively BBC to date. The day will offer perspectives on what it means to be responsible in the age of intelligent machines.

The conference includes radio debates, keynote speeches, panel discussions and even an orchestra!

We are delighted to announce that Tina Daheley will host the conference.

Key sessions include:

  • Grace Boswood, Chief Operating Officer of BBC Design & Engineering, opening the conference with a keynote on the BBC's public service role in the responsible development and deployment of AI technologies
  • Tina Daheley hosting several panels looking at how societies can maximise the benefits of the new and exciting AI landscape while minimising the harms
  • Andrea Catherwood hosting a special edition of the Media Show exploring the impact on young people of growing up in this new algorithmically-influenced culture
  • Technology Journalist Spencer Kelly hosting live on-stage technology demonstrations
  • Composer Robert Laidlow examining the relationship between algorithms and musical composition
  • Kamal Ahmed, BBC News Editorial Director, chairing a Question Time-style discussion about disinformation and its impact on society. Topics will include the emerging threat from deep fakes and the responsibilities platforms and politicians have for combating the spread of false information.

Our line-up includes:

  • Alice Webb - Director, BBC Children’s & Education
  • Anne Longfield OBE - Children’s Commissioner
  • Cassian Harrison - Channel Editor of BBC Four
  • Dr Indra Joshi - Head of Digital Health and AI for NHSx
  • Hanna Adan - Producer
  • Jamie Angus - Director of BBC World Service Group
  • Jamie Bartlett - Author and Broadcaster
  • Nahema Marchal - Researcher at the Computational Propaganda Project
  • Natalie Cargill - Founder & Executive Director of Effective Giving
  • Neil Lawrence - DeepMind Professor of Machine Learning at the University of Cambridge
  • Dr Nejra van Zalk - Lecturer in psychology and human factors at the Dyson School of Design Engineering
  • Rachel Botsman - Author
  • Sana Khareghani - Head of the UK Office for AI
  • Sandra Wachter - Associate Professor and Senior Research Fellow in Law and Ethics of AI, Big Data, and robotics Oxford Internet Institute
  • Simon Cross - Head of product for the Community Integrity team at Facebook
  • Stephanie Hare - Independent researcher and broadcaster
  • Tom Walker - Creator of frustrated news reporter Jonathon Pie

To watch a live stream of the event, please click the link below on Monday 7th October.

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