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Institute aims to safeguard society from emerging technologies

The Nuffield Foundation has announced that an independent institute will be established in an effort to safeguard society from emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Things.

AI and Internet of Things represent incredible opportunities for society - but many entrepreneurs and experts including Tesla co-founder Elon Musk have warned that AI must be regulated in order to protect the human race from being overtaken by AI -powered robots.

The objective of the institute will be to study the social and ethical implications sought from the use of data, algorithms and AI in a bid to ensure that their benefits are equally shared across society. The research center has been named the Ada Lovelace Institute - and costs £5m. Lovelace was a renowned 19th century mathematician that was widely regarded to be one of the world's first computer scientists. The facility is thought to be the first of its kind in the UK.

The primary objectives of the Ada Lovelace Institute will be to act as an independent voice that speaks on behalf of the public interest and society - informing thinking of governments, industry, public bodies and civil society organizations, in the UK and internationally.

The Nuffield Foundation has spent the last six months convening partnerships with a host of leading organizations in an effort to resolve and address the urgent need and requirements for an ethical framework and code of practice for the use of these emerging new technologies which are maturing and advancing rapidly.

The recent scandal involving Facebook and the disclosure that a UK analytics firm stole the data of over 50m users has heightened the demand for such frameworks and policies to be integrated.

The recent public debate sparked by Cambridge Analytica's alleged use of Facebook data underlines the importance of anticipating the ethical questions raised by emerging technologies and their application, which will be a core part of the new institute's remit.

Trustee of the Nuffield Foundation and Chairman of the Banking Standards Board, Dame Colette Bowe, highlighted the incredible benefits of the new technologies being developed, but also voiced her concern over recent scandals involving US tech firms Facebook and Uber.

She said, "Technology offers great potential to improve individual and social wellbeing, for example in early diagnosis of cancer, or improving the lives of people with disabilities. However, this month we have seen the first pedestrian fatality in a self-driving car crash, leading to calls for testing programs on public roads to be suspended. These examples show that in many cases, public scrutiny of the use of data and automated technologies only occurs when something 'goes wrong'. Valid questions are being asked about data rights, as well as about consent, public interest and what constitutes an ethical approach."