Jo Swinson MP writes…Lib Dem Tech Commission is ready and raring to go

Today I’m hosting the first meeting of the Liberal Democrats’ Tech Commission: an impressive mix of tech experts, academics and thinkers exploring the key challenges and opportunities of technology for our country 

We are at the height of a technological revolution that is transforming the world around us at a head-spinning pace. Advances in robotics and artificial intelligence are opening up possibilities that until recently were the realm of science fiction.

But, just as I am hopeful about the opportunities this latest revolution brings, I am also cautious about the problems and risks it will throw up, as I explained in my speech at our Brighton Conference earlier this year.  

This is why I decided to set up the Tech Commission. Over the last couple of months, I have been assembling a stellar line-up of experts to develop innovative policies for how the UK can be a global leader in new technologies and how we can ensure the benefits of these technologies are fairly shared across the country. 

Chairing the group will be Professor Sue Black OBE, a computer scientist who led the campaign to save Bletchley Park, the site of WW2 codebreakers. I am really looking forward to working with Sue, and I am so pleased she has agreed to lend us her knowledge and experience.   

The Commission will focus on three key questions:

  • What are the core ethical principles that data scientists should abide by when developing new technologies? And how might a Lovelace Code of Ethics be constructed and implemented?
  • What more needs to be done to secure and improve the strength of the UK’s tech sector internationally?
  • And how do we ensure that underrepresented groups in society are fairly involved in the development and deployment of technology?

Between now and next Autumn the Commission will meet quarterly and in between meetings we’ll be seeking input from an even broader range of experts and commentators, as well as party members – so look out for opportunities to contribute in the coming months! 

Regardless of the outcome of Brexit in the next few months, I want the party to think about the other big forces that will shape our society and economy and be ready to offer people a vision for a better future. I am sure the Tech Commission will help us do just that, and I cannot wait to share our ideas with you all in due course.


* Jo Swinson is Liberal Democrat MP for East Dunbartonshire, and was a Minister in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and Equalities Minister from 2012-15.

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  • David Evershed 30th Nov '18 - 6:59pm

    Surely the over-riding question is how to apply technology to improve productivity in the UK.

    The only way to increase wealth is to increase productivity. But productiviy in the Uk has stagnated the last decade and consequently wages have stagnated. Technology provides the tools to improve productivity and thus increase wealth.

  • Interesting idea.

    My (non expert) opinion:

    a) Transparency is key, I don’t see how you can have a rigid code of ethics when dealing with the unknowns of technology.

    b) Staying in the EU… Making the UK a welcoming place for international students and foreign tech experts.

    c) You can’t. Like all forms of social justice, change is gradual.

  • The possibilities for using abundant information could liberate the human race from a lot of work now done by low paid people.
    The current trend is for those people and many more better paid workers to be surperceded by machines and thrown on the scrapheap. Universal Credit means that they will suffer grinding poverty unless we use the technological revolution to end the tyranny of work and accept that everyone has the right to a decent income.
    The questions Jo is addressing miss this vital point.

  • David Warren 30th Nov '18 - 11:03pm

    Spot on @Geoffrey Payne

    Technological advance is already leading to unemployment and underemployment.

    Manual jobs in particular are disappearing fast.

    Universal Basic Income is the answer.

  • nvelope2003 1st Dec '18 - 8:46am

    The answer is to make the extra money available to fill all the thousands of vacancies in the NHS, social services, bus services, care homes etc where people are being overworked and leaving because of stress. The idea of millions being paid to do nothing might appeal to some middle class people but it will lead to huge social problems of gambling, alcoholism, drug addiction etc which has afflicted all social classes now and in the past where they have nothing to do. People need a purpose in their life. Many seem to have too much time already hence some of these crazy posts on social media.

  • @Various

    We need a “UBI commission” then. I’m glad one of our star MPs recognises the fundamental importance of harnessing technology in shaping the modern liberal society we want and is doing something to bring that about.

  • David Warren 1st Dec '18 - 11:29am


    Those jobs you talk off are vacant because in many cases they are inflexible and to demanding.

    Many employers are literally expecting people to work until they drop these days.

    That is certainly the case in the care industry that you mention.

    I haven’t been able to get back into employment following a long period as a full time unpaid carer which has had an adverse effect on my own health.

    Seeing a route back into any kind of paid work is not easy for me or anyone like me.

    I don’t want to be idle in fact I feel I still have a lot to offer but first I have to get myself well!

  • Work gives dignity. If technology removes work from society, then society needs to manufacture work for the people. If it doesn’t dystopia beckons.

  • David Evershed 1st Dec '18 - 12:58pm

    How do those who say technology is replacing people at work explain why this has resulted in high rates of employment and low rates of unemployment?

    Similarly the failure of productivity (output per head) to improve over the last decade shows that GDP has only grown at the same rate as the population.

    Our problem is that technology has not been replacing jobs and improving productivity and wealth.

  • The third bullet is rather ambiguous – though this may be the result of trying to fit a complex concept into too few words.

    The development of technology is generally undertaken by academic and industrial researchers, and the deployment is generally undertaken by commercial entities or public bodies. In neither case are societal groups generally consulted. It is therefore important that the under-represented groups are not disadvantaged by these developments, though it would be difficult for them to be directly involved in the development or deployment of technologies.

    Also, the groups that are under-represented on technology (for exemple, the elderly) are not always the same as those who are more generally under-represented

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