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The human challenges of using AI for services

The human challenges of using AI for services

Stephen Browning, Challenge Director of the ISCF’s next generation services challenge, explores the human-behavioural issues of using AI in the UK’s service sectors, and explains how the programme is working to overcome them.

Artificial intelligence and the increased collection and use of data have the potential to significantly disrupt the UK’s service sectors. But one of the biggest challenges of bringing new technologies to these industries isn’t technical at all. It’s human.

The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund’s next generation services programme is not only supporting industry to harness new technologies, but by funding projects that address human-behavioural issues like trust, ethics, bias and employment, we’re ensuring that the programme delivers the most positive outcome for both UK businesses and consumers.

Transparency and bias

When a human makes a decision in a professional context, they’re generally able to justify that decision when questioned. For example, you may be told that your insurance has increased because you now have points on your licence, or because you’ve moved to a higher risk area. But when the decision is made by an algorithm or a machine, the same level of transparency becomes harder to achieve, which can impact trust and therefore adoption.

This becomes all the more complex because, as the capabilities of AI have developed, some algorithms have perpetuated historical bias against particular groups of people. This includes gender bias in recruitment, leading to Amazon scrapping its on AI-powered hiring tool.

The next generation services programme’s large consortium R&D projects are working to address sector-wide challenges like these, including a project led by machine-learning start-up Genie AI Limited to address the ‘explainability’ of machine learning technology in order to boost adoption rates. The resulting tech will be trialled in a commercial setting and with key stakeholders engaged, in order to produce an industry protocol of how access to data can lead to the adoption of machine learning in services.

By funding projects that bring together business and academia to break down real-world barriers, the programme is ensuring a viable and productive future for AI in the UK’s services.

Artificial intelligence in recruitment


One of the most deliberated issues surrounding AI is employment. By developing new technologies that fundamentally change how people work, are we setting the UK up for an employment crisis?

It is inevitable that new technology will change the way we work, but that doesn’t mean we’ll be subject to a job crisis. Instead, new and more interesting roles are likely to emerge, and the nature of what we do and how we work will change.

At a recent University of Oxford public law lecture, Professor Ewart Keep identified 3 ways that AI will likely affect ways of working:

  1. the creation of new, digitally-focused jobs, such as cyber security manager
  2. the requirement for digital skills in jobs that are not primarily digital
  3. wider changes in the pattern of work and jobs

Projects funded through the programme’s collaborative R&D strand are exploring the exciting opportunities that new AI and data technologies could open up and prime the UK to make the most of them. From helping professionals to do their existing jobs more effectively (for example, using AI to help property lawyers detect fraud) to developing brand new AI-powered services like cryptocurrency wealth reporting, these business and research collaborations are paving the way for a new age requiring fresh digital skills.

Education and training

As new jobs and skill requirements in the service sectors emerge, we have to address how best to train people to use new technology in both their existing jobs and in emerging jobs.

One challenge-funded project, led by the University of Oxford, is exploring how AI could improve the UK’s legal sector. One of the project’s work packages is focusing specifically on identifying and testing solutions for gaps in skills and education so that people working in law can make effective use of AI technology.

Professor John Armour, Principal Investigator for the project, explains why in the legal sector, progress relies on education, and how the Oxford project is ensuring that it’s done effectively:

People working in legal services need to learn new skills in order to make the most of the opportunities AI presents. This educational challenge goes right up the career ladder – it is relevant for both students and established practitioners.

We’re committed to making the syllabus materials open source so that others from the sector can benefit. The content of the courses will be informed by the various work packages, and this provides a great way of unifying the various parts of the project together and enhancing its real-world impact.

By funding projects that have education and training at their core, the next generation services challenge is ensuring that people in new and existing jobs can make the most of new, emerging opportunities.

Find out more about the next generation services challenge.