RobotRepublic — Who better to issue commandments than a bishop? That is exactly what the Bishop of Oxford, Rt Rev. Dr Steven Croft, did this week.

Bishop Croft, a member of the UK House of Lords Select Committee on AI, delivered his so-called 10 commandments of AI at the Westminster eForum Seminar on Tuesday.

Now, I had the good fortune to meet the bishop a couple of months ago after I gave evidence to the House of Lords AI committee. I got a clear impression that he was really on the ball. It appeared that he was being pushed aside a little on the select committee for being too ethical, but that is another story and mere supposition. He certainly had sensible things to say. And now he has issued his 10 commandments of AI.

The Bishop’s guidelines here are quite forward-facing, if only because they aren’t mired in science fiction. I get sick and tired of the way Asimov’s three laws of robotics get dragged out every time there is talk about controlling AI and robotics, especially considering that Asimov himself never meant them to be taken seriously.

Asimov’s rules are built into the robots to strongly constrain their behavior.

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

But you don’t have to read many of Asimov’s stories to realize that these rules fictional straw men that get knocked down again and again.  

In the 1980s, by the way, Asimov added his zeroth law: A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm. This now gave robots the right to harm humans in the interest of humanity and added another reason for melting down their positronic brains.

What is so different and so useful about the Bishop’s commandments is that they are directed at the use of AI. So it is we humans who shoulder the responsible and not the machines as in Asimov. It is the foundation of rights for us humans and tells us what the application of AI should or should not do to us. Here they are, below.

The 10 Commandments of AI

1. AI should be designed for all, and benefit humanity.

2. AI should operate on principles of transparency and fairness, and be well signposted.

3. AI should not be used to transgress the data rights and privacy of individuals, families, or communities.

4. The application of AI should be to reduce inequality of wealth, health, and opportunity.

5. AI should not be used for criminal intent, nor to subvert the values of our democracy, nor truth, nor courtesy in public discourse.

6. The primary purpose of AI should be to enhance and augment, rather than replace, human labour and creativity.

7. All citizens have the right to be adequately educated to flourish mentally, emotionally, and economically in a digital and artificially intelligent world.

8. AI should never be developed or deployed separately from consideration of the ethical consequences of its applications.

9. The autonomous power to hurt or destroy should never be vested in artificial intelligence.

10 Governments should ensure that the best research and application of AI is directed toward the most urgent problems facing humanity.

Of course these will need qualifications and additions when we get down to it. There are other rights that need protecting. For example I would like to see a more explicit commandment that says, ‘thou shalt not kill with AI.‘  Others would be about not using AI to trick or deceive or to make false claims about AI.

But these are a great basis on which to launch the conversation and they do the job with elegance and simplicity. There is noting artificial or inelegant in this artificial intelligence guide.

For RobotRepublic, I’m Noel Sharkey.

Featured image credit: Wikimedia Commons