Artificial Intelligence: Reclaiming Control

Neil D. Lawrence

LT1, William Gates Building, Cambridge Festival

Embodiment Factors

bits/min billions 2,000
~100 a billion
embodiment 20 minutes 5 billion years

Heider and Simmel (1944)

Human Communication

Evolved Relationship with Information

New Flow of Information

Evolved Relationship

Evolved Relationship

Diana Robinson

\[\text{reflect} \Longleftrightarrow \text{reflex}\]

The Great AI Fallacy

If AI isn’t a tool for us, then we are the tool of AI.

Accelerate Program: Empower the User

Sarah Morgan

AutoAI: Resolve Intellectual Debt

Data Trusts: Empower People through their Data


Personal Data Trusts


  1. Indsidious decision-making that has downstream instrumental effects we don’t control.
  2. A power-asymmetry between data-controllers and data-subjects
  3. A loss of personhood in the re-representation of ourselves in the digital world.
  4. The GDPR’s endeavour to curb contractual freedom cannot by itself reverse the power-asymmetry between data-controllers and data-subjects.


  • Digital Democracy vs Digital Oligarchy Lawrence (2015a) or Information Feudalism Lawrence (2015b)
  • Data subjects, data controllers and data processors.

Data Trusts Initiative



  • Humans view intelligence as embodied, but AI is not embodied.
  • Critical decisions are dependent on human nuance to reconcile the tension between \(p\)-Fairness and \(n\)-Fairness.
  • This implies that AI should only ever be seen as a tool of humans.
  • Much of current technology makes us a tool of the AI.

Conclusions Contd

  • Three interventions to address this.
    • Empower the humans to better use the tools.
    • Develop better standards for creating AI systems.
    • Develop data intermediaries to allow citizens to have a voice in how their data is used.



Delacroix, S., Lawrence, N.D., 2019. Bottom-up data trusts: Disturbing the ‘one size fits all’ approach to data governance. International Data Privacy Law.
Edwards, L., 2004. The problem with privacy. International Review of Law Computers & Technology 18, 263–294.
Heider, F., Simmel, M., 1944. An experimental study of apparent behavior. The American Journal of Psychology 57, 243–259.
Lawrence, N.D., 2017. Living together: Mind and machine intelligence. arXiv.
Lawrence, N.D., 2016. Data trusts could allay our privacy fears.
Lawrence, N.D., 2015b. The information barons threaten our autonomy and our privacy.
Lawrence, N.D., 2015a. Beware the rise of the digital oligarchy.