UK-Japanese projects to explore effects of AI on society and economy
  • Six UK-Japan projects to investigate multiple, uncertain and wide-ranging effects of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on people’s lives
  • Could AI be used to make healthcare and legal decisions, could it transform and automate housework, or could legal liability change in accidents between humans and autonomous vehicles
  • The three-year projects, worth £2.4m and ¥180m, started this month

Six innovative projects are set to uncover the multiple, uncertain and wide-ranging impacts Artificial Intelligence (AI) could have on our society, culture and economy.

The projects will boost our understanding of how AI technologies affect people’s lives, from its use in healthcare to its potential to transform housework, and the ethics of using AI to using AI to make legal decisions.

The projects cover a wide range of topics including its effects on our happiness and wellbeing, its economic implications for skills, work and education, to the transparency, responsibility, governance and ethics of using AI. One of the six projects will advise on best practice around the use of AI in healthcare to ensure it benefits everyone in Japan and in the UK, another will develop ways to predict how advances in AI could transform housework in the two countries, and another will look at the consequences of the introduction of AI into Japanese and UK legal systems.

Science Minister, Chris Skidmore, said:

“AI is transforming people’s lives, from banking and cyber security, but we’re only at the cusp of our understanding of this technology. UK and Japanese collaborations will help us better comprehend the effects of AI on people’s lives, as it becomes more ingrained in society, culture and our economy, and help inform future government policy and legal decisions.”

Chief Director of the Japanese Science and Technology Agency’s Research Institute of Science and Technology for Society (JST-RISTEX), Prof Kokuryo, said:

“It is critically important to build a society that embraces a harmonious relationship between information technology and humanity.

“Japan and the UK have similarities in that they are democracies valuing human right and freedom. At the same time, they are heterogeneous in its historical and cultural backgrounds.

“We are hoping that some notions in Japan such as “najimi (familiarity, or natural fit),” will help convey our inclination to consider the relationship between technology and humans in conviviality, rather than in hostility.”

AHRC’s Executive Chair, Professor Andrew Thompson, said:

“The potential impact of AI and machine learning is global and both the UK and Japan will encounter multiple social, cultural and economic opportunities and challenges resulting from the proliferation of these technologies.

“Recent investment in Japanese universities and funding programmes has created a vibrant, high-quality research community in Japan for exploring the broader societal implications of AI technologies. I am therefore pleased to now be working with both ESRC and JST and investing in this important area of research. These projects will help us understand the multiple ways in which AI technologies could affect people’s lives.”

ESRC’s Executive Chair, Professor Jennifer Rubin, said:

“The application of AI has implications for daily life, organisations and the economy. There is much we have yet to understand about how we can benefit from improvements afforded by AI while ensuring that those benefits are shared widely.

“In collaboration with AHRC and JST, these six projects will help us make progress in this area, from healthcare to law and unpaid work.”

The projects have been funded through UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Fund for International Collaboration (FIC) in a joint UK-Japan initiative. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), both part of UKRI, contributed £2.4m via FIC, while the Japanese Science and Technology Agency (JST) contributed ¥180m. 

The projects will each run for three years beginning in January 2020.