Editor’s Note: Our July Newsletter included a news story about how several European faith or faith-related organizations submitted comments to the European Community’s White Paper on Artificial Intelligence this past spring. We are delighted to introduce a principal drafter of those comments, UK Attorney Patricia Shaw, to share her own background and interest in such work and lessons learned from this and numerous similar policy making contributions from the point of view of her Christian faith.
Q: Trish, please tell us the steps along your career path and faith journey that led you to form your UK based technology consultancy practice, Beyond Reach Consulting Limited?
Like most IT lawyers I started out doing transaction work – contracts and commercial negotiations, for the uninitiated. On that career path you can either continue up the ranks in private practice and make it to Partner or go in-house. I went in-house. That enabled me to gain a much deeper technical understanding of the technology, the data, and their impact on businesses and people. Over time, I broadened my breadth and depth of experience, getting involved with public sector, digital identification, financial services and ultimately open banking.
For me the idea for Beyond Reach began to form when I was involved with digital identification in approximately 2012. Professionally I was advising on the legal and technical aspects and risks, but as a Christian, I could see the potential for ethical concerns to arise, not in the immediate short term, but perhaps in the medium and longer term. As a Christian and a lawyer, I had been heavily involved in the UK Lawyers Christian Fellowship where we had previously discussed and studied various aspects of Christian ethics, justice, equality and human rights, but we had not yet uncovered applied ethics to technology. It was then in approximately 2016, where I had the opportunity to really do a deeper dive into the application of ethical principles in a global technology corporate setting. I then realised just how important it was to understand the values (and virtues) that frame the process of creating the technology and the evaluation of the outcomes. I subsequently got involved with regulatory affairs and horizon scanning, and could see that the application of ethics to technology and data was gaining traction, so just as the UK Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation was being formed at the end of 2018, I started Beyond Reach as a tech ethics (policy, governance, and legal) consultancy.
Q: You are engaged with and providing sophisticated commentary with a number of key networks in Europe and the United States around regulatory policy and ethical practice concerning artificial intelligence. Would you tell us about them and how they differ?
Yes of course.
I am a contributing writer to the IEEE Standards Association’s Global Initiative on Ethics of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems (AI/S) P7000 series of standards, which look at the intersection of technology with ethical considerations, seeking to create the future ethical standards for AI/S. I am particularly focused on P7003 concerning algorithmic bias.
I am on the steering committee of Women Leading in AI network, which is an action tank bringing together female thinkers, scientists, academics, businesswomen, politicians from across Europe and beyond to influence the future of AI. WLinAI has so far lead the way having devised “10 principles for Responsible AI” in early 2019, and engaged in a variety of global discussions regarding the application of AI ethics, governance and regulation, seeking to highlight the potential for harm.
I am founder of the Homo Responsiblis Initiative, which is an inter-disciplinary think/action tank, comprised of Christians who are also expert in various fields concerning the digital, AI and ML. The focus of the HRI is to influence policy and practice in the area of AI and the digital not only for good, but also for God; to raise awareness; and to mobilise the Kingdom regarding the impacts of AI and the digital age, now and for future generations. Our aim is to speak truth to power from the lens of AI and digital experts with a Christian worldview.
Q: You recently helped prepare comments for the European Evangelical Alliance’s response to the European Commission’s “White Paper on Artificial Intelligence – A European approach to excellence and trust”. How did that process go and what did you learn that can help other faith organizations speak credibly and effectively into policy debates over artificial intelligence?
It was through the Homo Responsiblis Initiative that I had the privilege to contribute the EEA’s response. The EEA as a larger Christian organization already has an ongoing mandate with Brussels, so it was important that we leveraged that existing relationship rather than seek to respond as a small but multi-disciplinary think tank. What responding to any kind of policy paper has taught me is about the diversity and spectrum of theological and philosophical views that Christians can, and do legitimately, hold concerning the benefits and risks of AI. Obviously, I was keen to ensure that all voices were heard, whilst balancing that with bringing expertise, pragmatism, and understanding of policy making around AI, data and its regulatory trajectory to bear. What was important for me, was that in the end we produced a response paper that would be read and understood by policy makers, enabling them to make deliverable change to future AI policy, and more pertinently, in the European Commission’s case, proposed AI regulation. As with any regulatory and government affairs, the follow up and ongoing engagement with the European Commission will be key.
Q: What are the technology issues that you most often think about in the “watches of the night”? How do you engage them?
At the moment, I think it has to be Automated Decision Making, and surveillance. Not just AFRT (although it is not to be underestimated just how harmful that can be) but online surveillance of our behaviours, movements, interactions, and transactions. Basically technologies with the potential to impact and influence our autonomy and agency in all aspects of life. Perhaps it is my heavy involvement with a number of COVID19 related technology projects (the Human Technology Foundation’s Report on Technology Governance in a Time of Crisis and ECPAIS ethical certification program in respect of digital Contact Tracing Apps Tools) which has really brought home just how swiftly technology can effect change (with legal, ethical and societal implications) for us, our lives and our societies. That is why I am so passionate about having global ethical frameworks (principles, standards, governance and regulation) in situ regarding AI and data driven technologies to provide us with appropriate democratically legitimated safeguards ready no matter the circumstances. Whatever “new normal” and increased AI and data driven automation we now face, we can be assured that although we are not in control, we have a God who is.