Yesterday, I have the privileged to attend a panel discussion on ethics in artificial intelligence. It was an interesting discussion and such discussion can be very abstract especially for the non-technical folks who does not know how AI works.
There are many cases where AI has been misused intentionally, like DeepNudes and unintentionally like biased job applicants selection etc. At the end of the day, we need to realize that AI is a tool and how it is used, for harm or for the greater good really depends on the individuals. As Uncle Ben said,“With great powers (coding, machine learning and artificial intelligence), comes great responsibilities”.
Here are my thoughts after the panel discussion. Most governments would have prepared certain guidelines on using artificial intelligence by this time. They will form good “reference” materials for any companies or individuals who wants to understand more about ethics in artificial intelligence. Organizations wanting to prepare good and actionable guidelines, will need to start arming themselves with how AI works and may work in the future. But guidelines at the end of the day only reduce the “unintentional” negatives. To reduce the “intentional” negatives, this is where the society need to have a strong regulatory and law framework, again requiring any regulators to have a thorough understanding how AI works otherwise we may be punishing the wrong actors.
Second thing is if one has observed history, during Enron and Tyco saga (early 2000s), there was much discussion on ethics in business managers when accounting process was abused. Accounting process was created to help management and investors to understand ‘clearly’ where the business is heading towards, never meant to paint a false picture. Moving on to 2008, during the Financial Crisis, again there was discussion on ethics, this time around on the bankers where complex investment products was pushed and sold to the public, other business organization and pension funds, resulting in huge losses and the retail investors have to rebuild their retirement nest eggs. In this third rise of the AI, we are now moving on to say that there needs to be ethics in ML and AI community (the engineers and scientists). This time round is different as it is not greed that is the cause but rather ignorance, which is not too difficult to overcome. We need more education and critical thinking to avoid catastrophic usage of AI.
I believed there are two things that we really need to do NOW and that is:
- Educate the public on what AI and Data Science really is, what kind of information can we (data and AI scientist) get from your data. As individuals, start realizing that your data has value and it can be abused if not protected well.
If you are in Singapore, a good start is to go for “AI 4 Everyone” conducted by AISingapore. Checkout their “Events” page to find more details of it.
If you are not in Singapore, start looking out for tech communities to join, listen to their talks to understand what they do with data, ask questions if needed. If all else fails, Google is your best teacher. 🙂
- We, the AI and DS community need to start realising that our work can have an impact on our customers and general public and start asking ourselves if the impact that we are creating, although may have helped the business overall, but is there a harmful impact to the other stakeholders as well, namely the customers.
There are many places that can go ‘wrong’, for instance biased data, models that are extremely difficult to interpret (like deep learning, random forest, support vector machine), and how decisions are made in high stake situation such as healthcare and education. (I have actually written a blog post on how not to use machine learning models, click here for the post.)
The tech community should start inculcating within ourselves, to start putting ourselves in the shoes of the customers, how will the customers feel at the “receiving end” of the models that we build.
At the end of the day, I do not think Ethics is just applicable to the tech community (at the moment) but also to everybody; to start thinking more about the impact of our actions, both personal and at work. The conversation/discussion on ethics in artificial intelligence should definitely start now to raise awareness, both in the public and the tech community and it will definitely take time. Another important point to note is that these ethics discussion will never have a conclusion but at the end of the day, having a conclusion is not what we want to achieve but rather have awareness, knowledge and empathy to consider from many angles/views.
I hope the post has been useful to you. Feedback and discussions are welcome as long as we take the approach of NOT CONVINCING but more of considering different viewpoints. 🙂
I hope the blog has been useful to you. I wish all readers a FUN Data Science & Artificial Intelligence learning journey and do visit my other blog posts and LinkedIn profile. Thank you!