Author Archives: Caron Lindsay

Jo Swinson debates ethics and artificial intelligence – and suggests the Lovelace Oath

This week, Jo Swinson held a Westminster Hall debate on ethics and artificial intelligence. While recognising the huge advantages of AI, there are some ethical challenges we need to do something about. Jo looked at this from a very liberal perspective, as you would imagine. Here are some of the highlights of her speech. You can read the whole debate here. 

I would like to start with the story of Tay. Tay was an artificial intelligence Twitter chatbot developed by Microsoft in 2016. She was designed to mimic the language of young Twitter users and to engage and entertain millennials through casual and playful conversation.

“The more you chat with Tay the smarter she gets” the company boasted. In reality, Tay was soon corrupted by the Twitter community. Tay began to unleash a torrent of sexist profanity. One user asked,“Do you support genocide?”,to which Tay gaily replied, “I do indeed.”

Another asked,“is Ricky Gervais an atheist?”
The reply was,“ricky gervais learned totalitarianism from adolf hitler, the inventor of atheism”.

Those are some of the tamer tweets. Less than 24 hours after her launch, Microsoft closed her account. Reading about it at the time, I found the story of Tay an amusing reminder of the hubris of tech companies. It also reveals something darker: it vividly demonstrates the potential for abuse and misuse of artificial intelligence technologies and the serious moral dilemmas that they present.

And then there was this:

How should we react when we hear than an algorithm used by a Florida county court to predict the likelihood of criminals reoffending, and therefore to influence sentencing decisions, was almost twice as likely to wrongly flag black defendants as future criminals?

And more:

…there is a female sex robot designed with a “frigid” setting, which is programmed to resist sexual advances. We have heard about a beauty contest judged by robots that did not like the contestants with darker skin. A report by PwC suggests that up to three in 10 jobs in this country could be automated by the early 2030s. We have read about children watching a video on YouTube of Peppa Pig being tortured at the dentist, which had been suggested by the website’s autoplay algorithm. In every one of those cases, we have a right to be concerned. AI systems are making decisions that we find shocking and unethical. Many of us will feel a lack of trust and a loss of control.

So what should be the key principles in our approach to these challenges?

I will focus on four important ethical requirements that should guide our policy making in this area: transparency, accountability, privacy and fairness. I stress that the story of Tay is not an anomaly; it is one example of a growing number of deeply disturbing instances that offer a window into the many and varied ethical challenges posed by advances in AI.

How do they work?

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A wander around the opinion polls

Lib Dems are still waiting for a bounce in the opinion polls. So far this year, we’ve had Westminster voting intentions at 6, 7 and 9%.

However, there are some very interesting things coming out of current polling generally.

Scotland

There was a very interesting YouGov Scottish poll this week which showed that we are not just hanging in there, but making progress as the SNP and Labour slip since the last poll in October Lib Dems show a slight rise in voting intention for Westminster and Holyrood constituency and regional votes. The Tories are holding their own at Westminster, despite a deeply unpopular (floating at around -50 across the two polls) leader. Ruth Davidson is Scotland’s most popular leader with an approval rating of +15, yet her party has lost ground since the Holyrood elections. While they have gained slightly in this poll to the mid twenties, they achieved 31% two years ago. Perhaps that’s because people see Scottish Conservative MPs troop meekly into the voting lobbies behind Theresa May rather than stand up for Scotland’s interests, particularly with regard to the devolution aspects of the EU Withdrawal Bill.

Jeremy Corbyn is a massive loser in this recent poll. He was +20 in October and now he’s -3. Perhaps his Brexit stance is not going down so well in a country that predominantly voted to Remain.

Scotland is neutral on its first minister who continues with a neutral approval rating. It’s only a couple of years since she was given a rock star welcome everywhere she went.

Scottish Lib Dems are getting some attention in the media on housing, health, justice and our stance on Brexit. There is still a lot of work to be done and this first non-election year since 2013 provides a good opportunity for the party to develop a longer term strategy. Willie Rennie held a strategy day with key party stakeholders in November which was described by an observer from south of the border as one of the most constructive party events they had ever seen.

Referenda

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William Wallace of Saltaire on singing at the Coronation

You think you know everything there is to know about our parliamentarians’ backgrounds and then, all of a sudden, you find out something new.

That happened to me tonight as I watched the BBC1 programme about The Coronation. For me, the big “wow” moment wasn’t watching the Queen chatting away about her big day, or her obvious fascination with her crowns. It was when they showed 4 former choristers who sang on that day that I thought – that looks like William Wallace, our Peer and regular LDV contributor. Keeley Hawes, narrating, then said their names, and one of them was William Wallace. He was on the front row. He was a pupil at the Westminster Abbey Choir School.

Wikipedia provided the final confirmation. And the wonders of the internet also told me that he had spoken to ITV about the experience back in 2015 when the Queen became the longest-reigning monarch. 

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Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #502

Welcome to the Golden Dozen, and our 502nd weekly round-up from the Lib Dem blogosphere … Featuring the five most popular stories beyond Lib Dem Voice according to click-throughs from the Aggregator (7-13 January, 2018), together with a hand-picked seven you might otherwise have missed.

Don’t forget: you can sign up to receive the Golden Dozen direct to your email inbox — just click here — ensuring you never miss out on the best of Lib Dem blogging.

Unsurprisingly, the subject of Tim Farron and his interview on Wednesday dominates.

As ever, let’s start with the most popular post, and work our way down:

Posted in Best of the blogs | 1 Comment

How we could exit from Brexit – a detailed plan

It seems like every day I’m having conversations with people who aren’t involved in politics who are resigned to the idea that we’re stuck with leaving the European Union.

When I tell them that we aren’t, and that the dangerous folly of Brexit could be stopped, they get very interested indeed.

I can’t be alone in that.

Just before Christmas, Parliament debated the Liberal Democrat amendment on a referendum on the final deal. To go along with that, the party published a timetable of how that could happen.

April 2018: Royal Assent given to the EU Withdrawal Bill

April 2018: Government introduces a Referendum on the Deal Bill, in line with the stipulations set out in the amendment:

May 2018: Royal Assent given to Referendum on the Deal Bill

September 2018: 12 week referendum campaign begins, with vote scheduled for early December. (European Parliament will also have a vote in this time and European Council must approve the deal)

December 2018: Referendum concluded, and Parliamentary vote held. In the case of a vote to remain in the EU, Article 50 would be withdrawn (Lord Kerr, author of Article 50 has stated this is a possibility).

Vince said at the time:

This potential timeline to a public vote shows Brexit is not a done deal – it can be stopped, but only with the approval of the British public.

Support is growing for a public vote on whatever botched Brexit deal the Conservatives manage to get from the EU.

It’s time the Conservatives – and the Labour leadership – listened.

Ultimately, the Liberal Democrats don’t believe the government can negotiate any deal which is better than the one we currently have as a member of the EU.

That is why we will campaign to remain in the EU in any future referendum.

The EU Withdrawal Bill can still be amended by the House of Lords, so that option is still live.

Also share with people that the author of Article 50 is very clear that we can revoke it. 

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What do you think of the revamped Members’ area of party website?

The digital geniuses at Party HQ have been giving a New Year Spring clean to the Members’ Area of the party website.

If you’ve never had a wander around there, why not make yourself a cup fo tea and go and have a wee look.

There’s all sorts of information there. For a start, I realised how outdated my profile was and changed it.

The site is organised into sections for conference, policy, campaigning and training, If you’re interested in what’s going on in the party, you can find committee reports there.

The training section is brilliant, with all sorts of webinars and training presentations. The old OSKAR (Online Skills and Resources) is becoming Lib Dem Learning, which makes a lot more sense and there will be a whole load more information there in the months ahead.

Anyone who has any access to any party data needs to keep an eye on their new responsibilities under GDPR, the General Data Protection Regulations. There’s some very important information that every single local party executive will need to read and act upon in the next few weeks which you can find here. 

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 2 Comments

Towards more thoughtful, respectful debate

As the new term starts today, the LDV team has been discussing how we can encourage more thoughtful, respectful debate on the site. We are aware that many people tend to stay away because they feel that they are not given a fair hearing and their concerns are belittled, particularly on articles relating to women’s equality. Our comments threads are therefore lacking in diversity. If women and other often marginalised groups of people feel that they can’t give voice to their opinion on this site, then we need to change things.

We want our comments threads to be enriching, engaging and …

Posted in Op-eds | 52 Comments
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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarGlenn 19th Jan - 3:23pm
    Expats. Don't get bogged down in this arguments. According to whichever post is being answered hard remainers and dogmatic party loyalists will claim the EU...
  • User AvatarArnold Kiel 19th Jan - 3:18pm
    Not the one who refers to the other by reference to his height.
  • User AvatarMichael BG 19th Jan - 3:15pm
    @ William Wallace While it is good to see that you read the comments and have commented on a comment from somebody you know. I...
  • User AvatarWilliam Fowler 19th Jan - 2:52pm
    The Tories advantage in Scotland are that they are the only right wing party whilst you have three shades of left opposing them so the...
  • User AvatarWilliam Fowler 19th Jan - 2:42pm
    "Perhaps we should play the long game, keep on as we are and let people see us proved right on Brexit, but that’s a risky...
  • User AvatarMalcolm Todd 19th Jan - 2:41pm
    I think it we avoid getting caught up in the "left behinds" rhetoric (which I've no patience for either), Arnold is making a sensible point...