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About the machine learning project

In November 2015 the Royal Society launched a major policy project on machine learning. This sought to investigate the potential of machine learning over the next 5-10 years, and the barriers to realising that potential. As it carried out its investigation, the project engaged with key audiences – in policy communities, industry, academia, and the public – to raise awareness of machine learning, understand views held by the public and contribute to public debate about this technology, and identify the key social, ethical, scientific, and technical questions that machine learning presents.

The machine learning programme of work is overseen by a Working Group.

The terms of reference for the initial machine learning project were:

  1. To increase awareness of machine learning among UK and EU policymakers, the UK public and industry, demonstrating its potential and highlighting the opportunities and challenges it presents. The project will set out the importance of machine learning as an intellectual discipline, using examples of achievements in speech recognition, image processing and translation.
  2. To raise the level of public debate, through increased public awareness and understanding of the technology, its current uses and near-term applications, and to ensure that public views of the technology inform relevant policy development.
  3. To identify the key scientific and technical challenges, and the core social, ethical and legal issues raised by machine learning and suggest how they can be addressed. In doing this, the project will engage all relevant stakeholders, including the machine learning research community.
  4. To identify how the social and economic opportunities provided by the technology can be developed to deliver wider benefit to the UK, including how the UK can continue to be at the forefront of the development and exploitation of the technology.