Thursday 27 May 2021

Ethical AI: What are the Ethics in Artificial Intelligence


Ethical AI

When people think of advanced artificial intelligence, many think of Hollywood films such as Terminator films, Ex Machina, and Transcendence. Films, where machines imbued with artificial intelligence, have risen against humans. Such concepts seem more fiction than fact but humanity is hurtling towards a world where machines could control the world in myriad ways. Fortunately, industry watchdogs are beginning to re-evaluate the dangers of self-learning artificial intelligence (AI) encouraged by an awareness of the need for ethics in the development and deployment of AI. This brings us to the topic of ethical AI.

What is ethical AI?

In a nutshell, ethical AI attempts to tackle the ethical concerns that people have with how AI and robots are being used and designed. Today, the field of ethical AI has broadened to include theories of the consciousness and rights of artificial intelligence.


Robot ethics or roboethics is the concept of designing robots with artificial intelligence using codes of conduct to ensure that the automated system will respond to circumstances and situations ethically. At the crux of it, roboethics calls for ensuring that the automated system has the capacity to make its own decisions when it comes in contact with human beings. The AI should never lead to decisions or circumstances where human life, safety, and dignity are put in any danger. Roboethics is primarily concerned with the actions of the robot but it is also concerned with the thought and actions of the human developer who created the robot and AI.

Why is there a need for ethical AI?

For too long we have convinced ourselves that technology is neutral. Sadly, the reality is different. In the past, technology has been used to conduct psychological experiments on social media users by manipulating their emotions and using the data for advertising or political purposes. Here are a few more reasons why ethical AI is so important and how it can and has been misused:

  1. Biased AI:
    Biased artificial intelligence can reinforce discrimination and put minorities, women, and disadvantaged groups at risk. A study by UNESCO showed that possibly damaging stereotypes are the norm among AI chatbots. In 2019, Amazon scrapped its recruitment tool powered by artificial intelligence as the system was rigged against female applicants since previous hires were majorly male. Such bias leads to inequality and negative outcomes in recruitment, healthcare, education, and many more instances.
  2. Errors in facial recognition:
    It has been shown that even leading facial recognition technology can mismatch people. For example, in a study by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) the software misidentified and mismatched 27 professional athletes to people in a database of criminals.
  3. Deepfakes:
    Deepfakes are artificial-intelligence-generated audio or video content with the intention to mislead. This technology can cause tremendous harm to society as it will contribute to the proliferation of cybercrime and misinformation. Deepfakes have already been used for selective social engineering attacks. In 2019, a journalist created a deepfake video of Mark Zuckerberg with a popular smartphone app.

Ethical AI benchmarks

Here are some moral concepts that should be common among the guidelines for ethical AI:

  1. Transparency:
    The decision-making system of the artificial intelligence machine must be transparent to users.
  2. Nonmaleficence:
    This is a term usually found in relation to the medical field it simply means “to do no harm”. The developers of AI-powered algorithms must ensure that the decisions taken by the system do not cause mental or physical harm to users.
  3. Justice:
    AI systems must be monitored regularly and closely to ensure that bias is not developed. The AI system should also have access to all genders and races to ensure equality.

How to build an ethical AI program

Here are some steps that can be used to create a customised, sustainable, and scalable ethical AI program:

  1. The first step is to identify any existing infrastructure that can be leveraged by the AI program. It is ideal to create an AI ethics program using the authority of existing infrastructure such as a governance board that meets to consider and review the privacy and data-related risks. If such an existing body does not already exist, companies should set up a dedicated committee for ethics-related issues.

  2. Companies should create a customised ethical framework that should include an elaboration of the company’s ethical standards. It should also establish relevant key performance indicators as well as a quality assurance program to appraise the effectiveness of the strategy. Moreover, the framework can show how ethical risk reduction is worked into business operations.


  1. Learn how industries such as healthcare approach AI ethically. Regulators, lawyers, medical professionals, and medical ethicists have explored the meaning of various topics such as informed consent, data privacy, and so on.


  1. Organisational awareness should be built and increased. There was a time when companies hardly paid attention to cybersecurity. Those times are over. Cybersecurity is important for all companies and all employees are expected to be aware of cybersecurity and the risks to cybersecurity. All departments and employees that come in contact with AI products should be made well aware of the company’s ethics framework and guidelines.


  1. Employees should be encouraged to identify AI ethical risks; this should be done both formally and informally. Encouraging employees can take the form of incentivising them via financial rewards.

  2. Companies need to keep a track of the impact of AI technology. Thorough research and review should be done to ensure that the product is used ethically. Stakeholders should be identified early on and they should be reviewed to find out how the product affects them.

The future of ethical AI

Google has called for governments around the world to increase the regulation of AI to prevent misuse and avoid mass surveillance programs and human rights violations. Today, there are several global initiatives committed to the cause of ethical AI. Regulation, framework, and guidelines can be used to ensure that AI is used for a safer world for everyone.


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