Scotland’s AI Strategy: A Relationship With Tech On Our Terms

As a member of the new Scottish AI Alliance Leadership Circle, I’ll help shape a healthier relationship between Scotland & artificial intelligence. Here’s how & why…

This week, I was beyond thrilled to announce that I’ve been selected as a member of the Scottish AI Alliance Leadership Circle, a new multi-stakeholder group with representation from across society. Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Finance & Economy, Kate Forbes, describes us as:

And she’s right. In the Leadership Circle, I join others, including members of the public and leading tech experts from top public and private sector organizations and universities. Working collaboratively with an open dialogue and a focus on decisive action, we’ll support the crucial work of Scotland’s AI Strategy.

The thirteen members gathered digitally for our inaugural meeting just a few days ago, and it was a great success. With some interesting ideas, insights, and thoughts already on the table, and with plenty to think about moving forward, we’re all very much looking forward to getting stuck in over the next few years, using our knowledge and expertise to help Scotland harness its abundant economic and technology potential.

At the meeting, I especially loved talking to Dr Christopher Austin, Chief Medical Officer at global radiology AI company Kheiron Medical Technologies. In 2018, he made UK health-tech history when his firm’s deep learning-based breast cancer screening software became the first in radiology to achieve CE marking, meaning it could be launched within the NHS and European healthcare systems. That’s quite something, making Dr Austin exactly the kind of trailblazer we need to help deliver Scotland’s AI Strategy.

The Scottish AI Alliance Leadership Circle inaugural meeting

Launched in March 2021, the Strategy has grown from extensive consultation and engagement with the Scottish people. Like any good policy of its kind, the Strategy places the people it hopes to benefit at its heart, seeking to gain their trust in artificial intelligence and everything these technologies can do for us, our economy, and the environment.

Ultimately, although the Scottish voice on AI is already well-respected worldwide, we aim to make our country a leader in the development and use of trustworthy, ethical, and inclusive artificial intelligence. I stand behind this goal 100%. The need to bring trust, ethics, and inclusivity into the design and deployment of AI systems is not only an imperative in Scotland but also globally.

I discuss this point at length in my upcoming tech book, AI by Design, which among other things explains that artificial intelligence is now affecting and changing our lives in more ways than ever before — even if we don’t know this is happening right before our very eyes.

For example, you may not realise that it’s actually AI spotting those fraudulent transactions your bank kindly texts you about. Or that it’s AI finding that catchy tune you hear in the pub at the weekend — perhaps the Beatles-esque Daddy’s Car, AI’s first-ever pop song (almost unbelievably five years old):

Whatever your understanding of artificial intelligence and its influence on all of us, it’s incredibly important to know that the transformative effect of these technologies is greater than some might imagine. It represents a fourth industrial revolution, or another digital revolution — one with even bigger potential to alter how we live, work, and relate to each other than the third industrial revolution, the digital revolution that humans have been living through since the middle of the 20th century.

Given this transformation will be like nothing we’ve ever experienced before in its scale, scope, and complexity, Scotland wants to stay ahead of the game. It’s for this reason the Leadership Circle is resolute in its objective to ensure Scotland continues to play an integral role in steering this new digital revolution in a safe direction.

“A safe direction” is one that moves carefully towards a future where AI serves everyone equally — regardless of their age, gender, race, ethnicity, or socio-economic status — and where human biases aren’t unintentionally reinforced by these technologies. If we’re to form a healthy, beneficial alliance with artificial intelligence in years to come, it has to be on our terms.

Any agony aunt worth their salt will tell you that a good pairing is all about compromise, with both parties having an equal say. But it’s a totally different kettle of robots here. In the rapidly changing relationship with AI, it’s fine (and actually vital) for humans to take control.

The Scottish AI Alliance Leaders are here to play couples counsellor in possibly the greatest mediation of all time — I’m afraid it’s a therapist’s couch for this one, Dr Austin, not a lab — and we’re determined to see mankind get everything it needs!

Behavioural psychologist; AI-quisitive; EY UK&I Client Technology & Innovation Officer. Views my own & don't represent EY’s position.