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New AI ethics council in Singapore will give smart advice

The council, backed by a research program, discusses the legal and ethical issues that go with data use and artificial intelligence.

The Singapore government recognises the power of AI -- it's good enough to defeat us at a game of Go -- and it also knows the technology has to be used responsibly.
STR/AFP/Getty Images

Singapore is taking the lead on one of the topics companies like Facebook and Google are grappling with: using artificial intelligence and data responsibly.

A new council is being set up to advise the city-state's government on the ethical and legal use of AI and data, Singapore's Minister for Communications and Information S Iswaran announced at the opening of Innovfest Unbound Tuesday.

Established to drive awareness and a better understanding of the benefits and challenges of AI, the council will advise the government on how it can develop and deploy AI responsibly.

In particular, it will help develop ethics standards and reference governance frameworks, issue advisory guidelines, practical guidance and codes of practice for voluntary adoption by businesses, according to Iswaran.

The council will help build "a trusted ecosystem" that assures consumer confidence as Singapore continues to develop itself as an AI hub and new business models emerge, the Infocomm Media Development Authority said, calling it a "timely" move.

A five-year research program helmed by the Singapore Management University will also be established to support the work of the council. This program will drive discussion surrounding "ethical, legal, policy and governance issues" stemming from AI and data use.

"We must leverage frontier technologies such as AI," said Iswaran. "It is a journey that private enterprises and consumers must walk together with the government, and we must… be plugged into the global flow of ideas, talents and opportunities."

It comes at a time when giants like Facebook are ramping up efforts to keep its AI systems from ethical lapses. Google is using artificial intelligence with Duplex, its digital assistant that can call a local business to make appointments on your behalf, but this has also raised ethical concerns.

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