Season 4, Post 27: The ethics of AI
Artificial Intelligence (AI) lacks no shortage of critics. Stephen Hawking has warned that it could “spell the end of the human race” while Elon Musk is fearful of its “scary outcomes.” Regardless, the use of AI solutions to help drive how we interact – whether we realise it or not – is increasingly ubiquitous. For a more measured response to its critics, your author had the privileged opportunity to discuss the ethics of AI recently in a call with the Chief Privacy Officer (CPO) of a leading US tech business.
Part of the CPO role in this instance involves chairing the firm’s AI Ethics Board. Its purpose is to “build trust” with both internal and external stakeholders. Trust in any company’s brand and its ability to ‘do right’ needs to endure – irrespective of any future regulatory developments concerning AI – in the view of our interviewee. A principles-based approach lies at the foundations of this company’s stance on AI. We concur with the notion that AI should be fair, unbiased, robust and conscious of privacy concerns.
Education is crucial, we were told. When creating AI tools, the key question is not just ‘can’ and ‘how’ might technology help solve any given problem, but ‘should’ it even attempt to? Every application should also be tested for bias (both intentional and unintentional) prior to deployment. Of course, once underlying clients are provided with the toolkit, say, for designing algorithms, then training at this level needs to happen too.
Engagement with regulators also matters. We believe that the holistic approach outlined by our interviewee makes intuitive sense. Clearly there is no one size fits all approach when it comes to designing principles for AI, but a scenario of “regulatory fragmentation” – where different countries take potentially opposing stances on important topics – would, inevitably, be not only damaging but also dangerous. Our hope is that such an enlightened world view becomes increasingly entrenched, as much as anything to ensure the most effective future deployment of AI.
7 July 2022
The above does not constitute investment advice and is the sole opinion of the author at the time of publication. Past performance is no guide to future performance and the value of investments and income from them can fall as well as rise.
Alex Gunz, Fund Manager
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