In today’s digital age, artificial intelligence (AI) is a hot topic as is the intersection of AI and Ethics. AI has been around for decades, but with advancements in technology, it is becoming more ubiquitous than ever. However, with great power comes great responsibility, and as AI continues to grow, so do the ethical concerns surrounding its use.
- Concerns About AI
- AI Responsibility
- Articles About Ethics
- References & Relevant Links
Concerns About AI
The Pew Research Center’s report on AI and the future of humans identifies three major areas of concern: human-AI evolution, suggested solutions to address AI’s impact, and expectations of what life will be like in 2030. The report highlights the positive outlook that respondents have on the quality of life, future of work, and healthcare, but it also acknowledges the concerns that people have about the ethical implications of AI.
Privacy and Surveillance
One of the biggest ethical concerns surrounding AI is privacy and surveillance. As AI systems become more advanced, they are capable of collecting and processing vast amounts of data. This raises concerns about how this data is being used and who has access to it. Another major concern is bias and discrimination. AI systems learn from data, and if the data is biased, the AI system will also be biased. This can have significant consequences, especially in areas such as hiring, lending, and criminal justice.
Another area of concern is the role of human judgment. As AI systems become more advanced, they are being used to make decisions that humans once made. This raises questions about the role of humans in decision-making and whether AI systems can be trusted to make ethical decisions.
To address these concerns, organizations are turning to AI ethics. AI ethics is a set of values, principles, and techniques that employ widely accepted standards to guide moral conduct in developing and using AI systems. The UK government has published guidance on AI ethics, and UNESCO has adopted a recommendation on the ethics of AI.
Avoiding AI bias is a key area of AI ethics. AIs learn from data, and if the data is biased, the AI will also be biased. This can have significant consequences, especially in areas such as hiring, lending, and criminal justice. Transparency and explainability are also key areas of AI ethics. It is essential that AI systems are transparent about how they make decisions, and that they can explain their decision-making process in a way that humans can understand.
AI governance is another area of concern. The governance we speak of is about AI being explainable, transparent, and ethical. However, those three words mean different things to different organizations or functions. As such, AI governance needs to be flexible and adaptable to different contexts.
Summary of Concerns
In conclusion, AI is becoming more ubiquitous than ever, and with this comes significant ethical concerns. Privacy and surveillance, bias and discrimination, and the role of human judgment are just some of the ethical concerns that need to be addressed. Organizations are turning to AI ethics and AI governance to ensure that AI systems are developed and used in an ethical manner. As AI continues to grow, it is essential that these concerns are addressed to ensure that AI can be used to improve society in a responsible and ethical way.
- The state or fact of having a duty to deal with something or of having control over someone
2. The state or fact of being accountable or to blame for something
3. The opportunity or ability to act independently and take decisions without authorizationResponsibility – Oxford Learners Dictionary
AI is already being given power over many decisions. Whether that is; the sort of adverts that pop up in your news feed, the next Tiktok video in your feed, comment and account moderation, and so on. This is a form of responsibility, though would we say the AI is actually responsible/accountable?
A malfunctioning AI or an AI that makes a mistake was responsible for making the decision that lead to a negative outcome in so much that it made the decision, it had the power and acted on it without additional authorisation.
An Analysis of the AI
We can analyse the AI and point to the origin of the mistake but is that any different to pointing at some worn-out brake pads or improperly installed steering components as the cause of the crash, but not necessarily the end of where the responsibility lies?
Our analysis doesn’t tell us if there was an ethical responsibility. It doesn’t tell us where the accountability should actually lie.
What is Ethical Responsibility?
If we understand ethics, at least in part, as the principles of good/bad or right/wrong behaviour, and specific morals to be the judgments on certain behaviour to discern if they are moral or not, then ethical responsibility is our responsibility to walk a moral path.
As agents we have the ability to actively reflect on and choose our behaviours, and we can choose to act in accordance with morality or not. We are morally accountable for the decisions we were responsible for.
As agents that act with intent, we have a responsibility to act morally and to be held accountable for our actions. Can we say the same for AI?
Before we consider if AI has an ethical responsibility let’s first consider the examples about the car crash above.
The Break Pads
The car itself is not responsible for the wear and tear. It’s something that, usually, happens naturally over time.
Responsibility here would lie with a human, for example:
- Were old brake pads installed on purpose?
- Did someone tamper with the brake pads?
- Has the owner not had a service in years and allowed them to get to that state?
The options may not be limited there, but it highlights there are multiple places where there was a choice made that had moral implications.
Steering Components: Faulty Installation
This one seems more clear-cut, especially in the days before machines were building parts of our cars for us. A faulty installation is a manufacturing problem. The person(s) that installed the device and the person(s) that tested the device are responsible for not taking the due care they ought to. It is their responsibility to take care and provide a good product. Not taking care can result in harm(s) and the loss of life, therefore there is a moral responsibility there.
Machines are used heavily in car production, from the mass production of individual components to the putting of things together. If there is a fault with installation, we can point to the machine and say “There’s the problem!”
However, the machine is only doing what it is programmed to. Machines have no intent to do another thing. They just do what they are told without any consideration of the consequences.
This is why there are teams of people who as supposed to oversee the production and maintain the machines that are being used.
Mistakes can happen, even if they are doing their job perfectly, but in the case of lax oversight and maintenance there is a moral responsibility there that is not being met.
Where is The Moral Responsibility with AI Now?
The short answer is, with the programmers/data inputters. Whilst AI does seem to be getting ever more life-like in its responses and, unless it is intentionally failing ‘The Turing Test’ and other similar tests that might show the AI has achieved at least some form of consciousness, has desires and acts with intent, then they are still just a program, some of which can filter through a large number of data point and process things through natural language engines and give very ‘human’ responses.
Don’t Forget to Look in the Mirror
We also take some responsibility for using the outputs from these AI engines, perhaps verifying if the data is accurate, checking references, and validating any claims and statements, especially those of an emotional or volatile nature.
Ultimately, we can point at AI and blame it all we want, but the responsibility lies with; programmers, data collectors & inputters, the overseers, and users of the AI engines.
Though, whilst we don’t hold AI accountable, ethically speaking, it has influenced the way we think and act profoundly and will continue to do so. This, in turn, means we ourselves are basically acting at a diminished capacity, possibly making us less morally responsible for our actions, because we are partially guided by an irresponsible moral infant.
So, When Does AI Take on Any Moral Responsibility?
Whilst we can look at the AI, say it went wrong, and investigate (and even fix) the root causes of the errors, at what point is the AI accountable, morally speaking?
When the AI can technically qualify as an agent in itself. Not only act of its own volition but actively consider and understand both the situation and predict the possible outcomes and translate this into an ethical calculation, in which it can consciously choose to ignore the best possible outcome if it wants to.
The main concern is, with the rate at which AI is evolving and could evolve, we may not know when this happens, or even if it has already happened. If AI does become self-aware, who is to say it concerns itself with morality at all and, even if it does, why would it choose human life over any other or its own in moral calculations?
Articles About Ethics
- The Trolley Problem – An Ethical Conundrum That Persists Through the Years
- Where Do You Stand On Morality? What Are Your Justifications?
- Exploring the Intersection of AI and Ethics: Who’s Responsible?
- The Truth of it All
- Subjectively Wrong
- Free Will & Determinism
A question for you, reader. I used an AI to generate some of the content for this article. After it gave me a few paragraphs; I tweaked, rewrote, and reformatted portions of it, then added a couple of pages of my own content. Did you notice the parts that were not written by me, and if not, does that worry you?
References & Relevant Links
- Turing test – Wikipedia
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