Turing Lecture: Artificial Intelligence and Public Services

Date: 19 January 2017

Time: 13:30 – 16:30






Robots and artificial intelligence have existed conceptually for a long time, but we are reaching the point where reality is catching up with fiction. Machines that can truly think like humans are still some way off, but already here and in use is deep machine learning, which can trawl vast amounts of data and come up with a most likely optimal strategy. This undoubtedly opens a big opportunity to make public services more efficient, making the citizen’s interactions with government simpler and more personalised. These services can be transformed through a spectrum of technologies, ranging from basic digitisation to deep machine learning.
However, whether AI will make fairer decisions than humans remains an open question. We need to think carefully about how we can ingrain professional values such as fairness, sensitivity and social responsibility into AI, as well as how to set up robust governance for when algorithms get it wrong.


Sir Mark Walport is the Chief Scientific Adviser to HM Government and Head of the Government Office for Science.
Previously, Sir Mark was Director of the Wellcome Trust, which is a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health by supporting the brightest minds.   Before joining the Trust he was Professor of Medicine and Head of the Division of Medicine at Imperial College London.
He is Co-Chair of the Prime Minister’s Council for Science and Technology and has been a member of this since 2004.   He has also been a member of the India UK CEO Forum, the UK India Round Table and the advisory board of Infrastructure UK and a non-executive member of the Office for Strategic Coordination of Health Research.  He is a member of a number of international advisory bodies.
He has undertaken independent reviews for the UK Government on the use and sharing of personal information in the public and private sectors:  ‘Data Sharing Review’ (2009); and secondary education:  ‘Science and Mathematics: Secondary Education for the 21st Century’ (2010).
He received a knighthood in the 2009 New Year Honours List for services to medical research and was elected as Fellow of The Royal Society in 2011..