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It's Time to Build an Ethical Framework for AI

What are the Ethical Principles of AI Use?

Ethical issues in artificial intelligence (AI) exist because rules of the road are needed to guide what is appropriate behavior in processing data against a set of algorithms to make decisions about individuals, communities and a society. Algorithms cannot think for themselves and are, therefore, morally neutral. A framework is needed to ensure they are designed in an ethical way. Fairness, trust, transparency, equality and accuracy have been identified as part of the ethical considerations that should be integrated into data analytics and AI.

There is somewhat of a global consensus about what should be the ethical principles in AI. They tend to include values such as transparency, non-maleficence, justice, responsibility and privacy. A brief discussion follows.

Transparency. The ability to understand the decisions of AI.

Non-maleficence. Never cause foreseeable or unintentional harm using AI, including discrimination, violation of privacy, or bodily harm.

Justice. Monitor AI to prevent or reduce bias.

Responsibility. Those involved in developing AI systems should be held accountable for their work.

Privacy. An ethical AI system promotes privacy both as a value to uphold and a right to be protected.

A new workplace survey by Genesys examines the views of employers and employees with respect to AI ethics policies, potential misuse, liability and regulation. More than half of the employers questioned in a multi-country opinion survey say their companies do not currently have a written policy on the ethical use of AI or bots and 21 percent expressed a concern that companies could use AI in an unethical manner. The research shows that both employers and employees support increased use of AI-enabled technologies in the workplace. Millennials are most apprehensive about the ethical use of AI. They worry about liability related to AI misuse and unethical uses of AI-produced data. AI & Ethics

It has previously been pointed out that AI can help increase productivity, extend product life and minimize waste to make people’s lives better. But it’s only a tool that should be monitored to clearly identify what should and should not be done through the use of AI. This is where the ethical principles come into play.

The broad goal of AI is to make the world a better place. Issues such as sustainability, economic development and promoting social justice can be fostered through AI applications, but it must be done in an ethical manner. 

Eight new AI principles will be put to the test in a trial run led by some of the biggest businesses in Australia. An “AI Ethics Framework” was identified to evaluate whether the principles can “deliver practical benefits and translated into real world solutions,” according to the government.

According to the Framework, the principles include ensuring AI systems: "benefit individuals, society and the environment"; respect human rights, diversity and individuals' autonomy; are "inclusive and accessible", without unfairly discriminating against individuals, groups or communities;" "respect and uphold privacy rights and data protection" and operate reliably, according to their intended purpose.

The AI Ethics Framework should guide actions when designing, developing, integrating or using AI systems to achieve better outcomes, reduce the risk of negative impact and practice the highest standards of ethical business and good governance.

As with any strategic initiative such as AI, the process should be guided by ethical standards. What are the right ways to use AI? How can AI be used to foster fairness, justice and transparency? What are the implications of using AI for productivity and performance evaluation? These are just a few of the questions to be answered to ensure ethical systems provide the foundation for the use of AI.

The next step in the U.S. is for the business community to work with government agencies to identify ethical principles in AI. Unfortunately, it seems the process is moving slowly and needs a nudge by technology companies, most of whom are directly affected by the ethical use of AI.

Posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on November 19, 2019. Dr. Mintz recently published a book, Beyond Happiness and Meaning: Transforming Your Life Through Ethical Behavior, that explains how doing the right thing and being a good person can enhance well-being. The book is available on Amazon. Visit his website, sign up for his newsletter, follow him on Facebook and “Like” his page.