Businesses need to consider the ethical implications of AI

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a growing field that offers many benefits for businesses. A report by the UK House of Lords has however flagged the need to be aware of potential ethical concerns.

It presents a significant opportunity to solve complex problems and potentially improve productivity.

The report notes that the last decade has seen a confluence of factors such as deep learning, the growth in available data and computer processing power which allows AI to be deployed far more extensively. The report points out that this brings opportunities, but also risks and challenges.

The committee noted that the productivity benefits to industry “are likely to be profound”.

On the other hand, they suggest, “it is possible to foresee a scenario where AI systems may malfunction, underperform or otherwise make erroneous decisions which cause harm”. There is also the potential for AI to be used for criminal activities.

Companies and organisations need to improve the intelligibility of their AI systems. Without this, the report suggests that regulators may need to step in and prohibit the use of opaque technology in significant and sensitive areas of society. To do this means not only using established concepts, such as open data and data protection legislation, but also the development of new frameworks and mechanisms, such as data portability and data trusts. Data trusts are an idea that will monitor and supervise the sharing of datasets between organisations and companies.

As AI decreases demand for some jobs but creates it for others, retraining will become a lifelong necessity. The report recommends that at early stages of education, children need to be adequately prepared for working with, and using, AI. In particular, it recommends that the ethical design and use of technology becomes an integral part of the curriculum.

Business leaders need to be aware that, while AI offers potentially significant productivity gains, it needs to be explained to consumers and operated in an open manner to avoid mistrust or even abuse.

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