Why AI Needs You: Pembroke Alumna Verity Harding Publishes Book on Ethical AI


Since graduating from Pembroke in 2006, Verity Harding’s career has been nothing short of impressive – from working as a special adviser to Nick Clegg, to being named one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People in AI in September last year. Now, she has shared her knowledge in her recently published book AI Needs You: How We Can Change AI’s Future and Save Our Own, designed to explain why you should get involved in one of the most rapidly changing industries in the world.

Verity’s route into AI was perhaps less traditional than you might expect. In fact, her career began in the humanities, reading History from 2003 to 2006 at Pembroke, before winning the prestigious Von Clemm scholarship to Harvard University which allowed her to continue her research at the University’s Graduate School for Arts and Sciences. But during her time serving as Nick Clegg’s special adviser until 2013, Verity worked on issues surrounding digital privacy, national security and human rights – experience which followed her into her next role as Global Head of Public Policy at Google DeepMind. From here, her career has centred on ethics and global policy in the digital world, specifically with regards to artificial intelligence. Currently, she is Founder of Formation Advisory Ltd, a technology consultancy firm that supports businesses with AI transition, and Director of the AI & Geopolitics Project at Cambridge University's Bennett Institute for Public Policy.

Bringing this wide background in politics, policy and technology into such a rapidly changing industry has proved invaluable to working towards ethical AI governance, as evidenced by her accolade as one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People in AI. Indeed, her recently published book combines her academic background in History with her experience in public policy and the AI industry to use historical tech revolutions as a means of imagining a more positive and ethical future for AI.

Examining three twentieth-century technological advances – the space race, IVF, and the internet – AI Needs You imagines a future where AI can be valuable and put towards the public good, avoiding the dangers and ethical concerns usually levelled at the technology. But to do so, Verity suggests we all need to be involved in guiding AI towards this future – not just those involved in building it. As she told TIME Magazine in September, “AI is too important just to be left to the AI community alone.”

For more information on AI Needs You, click here.

Left: a headshot of Verity Harding. Right: the cover of AI Needs you - a simple black cover with the title in multicoloured font.