UK’s first Institute for Ethical AI in Education bids to safeguard development of artificial intelligence

“We are sleepwalking into the biggest danger that young people have faced,” said co-founder, Sir Anthony Seldon. “AI could be a considerable boon if we get the ethical dimension right but, with each passing month, we are losing the battle.”

A new Institute for Ethical AI in Education (IEAIED) was launched last week at Speakers’ House, in a bid to help tackle the threat young people face from the rapid growth of new technology.

Based at the University of Buckingham, IEAIED will look at how data and artificial intelligence within education can be designed and deployed ethically. It is led by educationalist, Sir Anthony Seldon; AI in education scientist, Professor Rose Luckin; social impact entrepreneur, Priya Lakhani; and supported by an advisory council comprising senior academics, politicians and entrepreneurs. The aim is to make the UK a world leader in ethical AI for education.

The institute will look at how ethics can be ‘designed in’ to every aspect of AI in education and training, from the inception of an idea for an AI product or service to the adoption of that AI within society. Assumptions about human behaviour underlining current AI development, and how social values are manifested in AI design, will be considered.

The IEAIED will also examine the purposes of a person’s education, to ensure that AI does not prioritise certain aspects of learning at the expense of others, which may distort the process of learning and human development.

The Institute has been founded, say the team behind it, because the growing volume and diversity of data generated raises ethical concerns about what happens to it, who owns it, who uses it, for what purposes, and who is accountable for its interpretation and exploitation.

Sir Anthony Seldon

“We are sleepwalking into the biggest danger that young people have faced,” said Anthony Seldon, “eclipsing totally the risk of social media and other forms of digitalisation. The really frightening thing is that the Government is not stepping up to the mark, and the tech companies are eating them alive, making shamefully high profits, preaching platitudes, while infantilising our young and exposing them to great dangers. AI could be a considerable boon if we get the ethical dimension right but, with each passing month, we are losing the battle.”

Rose Luckin said: “Ethical, thoughtfully designed and implemented AI could save education, from tackling the global teacher shortage to providing high quality education for everyone. The solution is at our finger tips, if only we are able to ensure that the ethical vacuum of much of today’s commercial AI development is filled with the practices, moral values and ethical principles that will ensure society in all its diversity will benefit.”

Priya Lakhani has seen the potential of AI to disrupt the ‘one size fits all’ model of education through CENTURY Tech, the learning platform she founded and built with a team of teachers, neuroscientists, and engineers. “It is important attention is paid – by government, industry and the education system – to the ethical issues that arise from introducing AI into education,” she said. “We must make sure all learners and educators are protected from the risks that unethical use of AI in education could bring about.”

Advisory board members include Lord Clement Jones, Sir Tim O’Shea, Geoff Barton, Sherry Coutu, Gi Fernando, David Puttnam, Fiona Boulton, Vivienne Durham, Lucy Heller, Alan Winfield, Essie North and Ann Mroz.