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AI Ethics Debate

2 April 2019 @ 6:00 pm - 8:30 pm

This House believes that there is no such thing as AI Ethics; just Ethics


  • Professor Richard Harvey FBCS Professor of Computer Science at the University of East Anglia
  • Chris Rees President of the British Computer Society and Chairman of the WCIT Ethics Panel

It was a rare treat and a privilege to hear Chris Rees and Professor Richard Harvey FBCS probe the fine balance between their opposing positions and put into context the myths and hype that currently abound on this issue.

This was no caricature tussle but well considered closely matched arguments with plenty of food for thought from the floor to make it a rich and varied discussion. A number of people were heard to say that they had changed their minds on which way to vote several times in the evening.

But perhaps the result alone may give rise to a further cause for thought for Charities embarking on AI.

The “techie” part of the audience voted overwhelmingly for the motion, There is no such thing as AI Ethics – just Ethics, so it may well be worth checking the values and any code of ethics of your AI suppliers to make sure they accord with your own before you start your AI journey together.

(For those statistically minded:

* the total vote both before and after the debate was in favour of the motion,

* the number of those opposed to the motion increased by a higher percentage than those in favour when comparing before and after votes,

* the vote from the Charity members of the audience was quite evenly matched with just one vote between for and against.)

AI Ethics Debate Feedback from Attendees (2 April 2019)

  • “Many thanks for this and for an incredibly interesting and engaging evening.” (Adam Tweed, AbilityNet)
  • “I thought it was very good event – a very interesting discussion.” (Brian Perfect, the Brain Tumour Charity)
  • “I just wanted to say a big ‘thank you’ for hosting the AI Ethics debate – the speakers were brilliant and it helped illuminate some of the key things like bias and explainablity that we should be considering at Cancer Research UK and I’m already starting to feed back into the work we’re doing. I’m looking forward to sharing the filming internally when it’s available (and going back and making a few notes!)” (Rob Leyland, Cancer Research UK)
  • “It was a great event. I enjoyed the debate and I did actually change my vote as a result of the debate.” (Liz Thrussell, WCIT member)
  • “Thank you for writing this up, very useful and accurate description of an enjoyable and thought provoking event.” (Kerri Mansfield, WCIT member)
  • “Really great event, well done Maxine and Lena, top job.” (Andy Simpson, WCIT member)
  • “Maxine – thanks for the follow-up, it was an interesting event 🙂 I would be interested in future events, please add me to your distribution list.” (Penny Duquenoy,)

A recording of the Event is available to AI4C Members on Teams.


2 April 2019
6:00 pm - 8:30 pm


Maxine Ricketts


39a Bartholomew Close
London, EC1A 7JN United Kingdom
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