Bishop of Oxford asks about ethics in technology, and use of AI in coronavirus response

On 9th September 2020 the Bishop of Oxford, Rt Revd Steven Croft, asked a question of Government about the use of artificial intelligence in dealing with COVID-19:

Covid-19: Artificial Intelligence

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the report by the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation AI Barometer, published on 18 June, what assessment they have made of the benefits and risks of the use of artificial intelligence in addressing the impact of COVID-19.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Baroness Barran) (Con):  My Lords, artificial intelligence played a very important role in responding to Covid, from identifying potential drug candidates to AI-driven education technology. AI also has the potential to drive productivity gains across sectors, supporting exciting new careers and businesses as an essential part of economic recovery. It is important that we keep society engaged as we do, so the centre’s Covid-19 repositories and its public attitudes surveys inform our understanding of public sentiment. The independent AI Council advises the Government on how best to realise the benefits and mitigate the risks.

The Lord Bishop of Oxford [V]: I thank the Minister for her Answer, and I draw attention to my registered interest as a board member of the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation. A year ago, the Prime Minister set out a vision, in his speech to the United Nations, for the UK to become a global leader in ethical and responsible technologies. We are discovering more deeply and painfully that ethics, good governance, human mediation and public trust are vital to realise the deeper benefits of these new technologies and prevent real harm. Will the noble Baroness affirm the importance ​of balancing innovation with a continued emphasis on ethics and good governance across the technology sector? In particular, will she confirm that the long-delayed government response to their own online harms consultation will be published this month, paving the way for much-needed legislation? Continue reading “Bishop of Oxford asks about ethics in technology, and use of AI in coronavirus response”

Bishop of Oxford calls for post-Covid economy with fast, affordable internet access for all

On 11th June 2020 the House of Lords debated a motion from Baroness Hayman, “that this House takes note of the case for post-COVID-19 recovery strategies that will contribute to a fairer, cleaner, and more sustainable economy.” The Bishop of Oxford, Rt Revd Steven Croft, spoke in the debate:

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, I warmly welcome this debate. The country faces the triple challenge in the next decade of the threat of climate change, the deepest recession for generations and the health challenges of Covid, all of which will exacerbate existing inequalities. I support much of what other noble Lords have said and will focus my remarks on the vital theme of digital inclusion.

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Bishop of Oxford calls for agreed principles against which public-centred use of Artificial Intelligence can be assessed

On 12th February 2020 the House of Lords debated a motion from Lord Clement-Jones, “To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they have taken to assess the full implications of decision-making and prediction by algorithm in the public sector.” The Bishop of Oxford, Rt Revd Steven Croft, asked a follow-up question:

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, I declare an interest as a board member of the CDEI and a member of the Ada Lovelace Institute’s new Rethinking Data project. I am also a graduate of the AI Select Committee. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, for this important debate.

Almost all those involved in this sector are aware that there is an urgent need for creative regulation that realises the benefits of artificial intelligence while minimising the risks of harm. I was recently struck by a new book by Brad Smith, the president of Microsoft, entitled Tools and Weapons—that says it all in one phrase. His final sentence is a plea for exactly this kind of creative regulation. He writes:

“Technology innovation is not going to slow down. The work to manage it needs to speed up.”

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Bishop of Oxford on climate emergency and work of church

In his letter to the whole world in 2015, Pope Francis notes how

“the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor”.

Our response must be nothing less, he argues, than an “ecological conversion” of every person and every part of society. Responding to the current emergency is the responsibility of every family, workplace, village, town and city, company and public institution.

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Bishop of Oxford asks Government about links between food security, poor nutrition and climate change

On 28th January 2020 the House of Lords debated a question from Lord Collins of Highbury, asking Government”what consideration they have given to formulating their pledge at the Tokyo Nutrition for Growth 2020 summit, and what they are doing to build commitments from other countries.” The Bishop of Oxford, Rt Revd Steven Croft, spoke in the debate:

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, I, too, welcome this timely debate. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Collins, and welcome the opportunity offered by the Tokyo Nutrition for Growth Summit.

It is moving to note, as other noble Lords have mentioned, that the number of people suffering from hunger has been increasing since 2015, albeit slowly. We know that behind the statistics lie terrible and moving stories of human suffering, disease and death, especially across Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. It is sobering to ponder on the one hand the challenge of providing a sustainable diet and preventing the lifelong consequences of malnutrition and, on the other, the striking rise in obesity across the world and consequent health problems. Continue reading “Bishop of Oxford asks Government about links between food security, poor nutrition and climate change”

Bishop of Oxford responds to Queen’s Speech debate, warns of”environmental catastrophe”

On 7th January 2020 the Bishop of Oxford, Rt Revd Steven Croft, spoke during the second day of debate on the Queen’s Speech, on the topic of the environment and climate change:

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, I rise to speak about the climate emergency and declare an interest as a member of the advisory board of the Environmental Change Institute in the University of Oxford. It is a privilege to share in this debate and particularly to welcome the maiden speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick. Her commitment to her local community and depth of wisdom are very clear.

The Minister said in his opening address that climate change will test us all, and it will.

David Wallace-Wells’s book, The Uninhabitable Earth, should be required reading for every Member of this House as we move forward. Wallace-Wells begins his graphic description of the future of the earth with the unforgettable words:

“It is much, much worse than you think.”

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Bishop of Oxford asks Government for its climate change priorities

On 26th June 2019 Lord Bird asked the Government, “by what means, if at all, they require public bodies to act, and to demonstrate how they act, in a manner which seeks to ensure that the needs of the present generation are met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” The Bishop of Oxford, Rt Revd Steven Croft, asked a follow-up question:

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Bishop of Oxford on future generations, climate change and technology policies

On 20th June 2019 Lord Bird led a debate in the House of Lords on the motion “that this House takes note of the case for better protecting and representing the interests of future generations in policy-making.” The Bishop of Oxford, Rt Revd Steven Croft, spoke in the debate, and his speech is below. The speech of the Bishop of Leeds in the same debate can be seen here.

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Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration etc) Bill – Bishop of Oxford responds to amendment on same-sex marriage

On 1st March 2019 the House of Lords considered the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration etc) Bill at its Report Stage. Lord Faulkner of Worcester tabled an amendment to the Bill similar to that which he had tabled in Committee on the process by which the Church of England and Church in Wales might opt-in to conduct same-sex marriages. The Bishop of Oxford responded to the amendment, explaining that it was not necessary as there were already legal mechanisms in place for both Churches to opt-in should they choose to. The Minister also emphasised these points in her response and the amendment was not put to a vote. The Bishop’s speech is below, and the whole debate on the amendment is reproduced underneath.

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, those were extremely moving speeches. I thank the noble Lords, Lord Faulkner, Lord Collins and Lord Cashman, and the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, for the contributions they have made in the Chamber today and the moving way in which they have spoken. I thank them for sharing their personal experiences so movingly, and for the important and necessary articulation of the views they have heard within the broader Church of England in favour of movement and inclusion. I deeply regret the language used in writing to the noble Lord, Lord Collins, and others; it has no place in the contemporary Church.

The Church is committed to listening carefully to the wisdom of the nation, to the wisdom in our continued debate in this Chamber and to the voices of LGBTI people at all levels in the life of the church. We are committed in our public statements to the inclusion and welcome of all.

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Bishop of Oxford warns against “four temptations” in Brexit debate

On 27th February 2019 the House of Lords debated the Government’s EU Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration. The Bishop of Oxford, Rt Revd Stephen Croft, spoke in the debate.  His full speech is below: 

Oxford 5718b

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, I always rise to speak in this Chamber with some fear and trepidation but never more so than today: not only because of the expertise, passion and conviction in this Chamber but also the jeopardy in which we find ourselves as a nation and a Parliament. My journey through the Brexit process is that for seven years until the referendum year, I was the bishop in Sheffield and south Yorkshire, where some of the communities voted by almost 70% to leave the European Union. I moved shortly afterwards to the diocese of Oxford, where the three counties, by and large, are significantly in favour of remain.

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