The ethics of artificial Intelligence in 10 letters

  • Philippa Foster Back
  • 28 October 2019
  • Blog | Blog

AI technologies are not ethical or unethical per se. The real issue is around the use that a business makes of AI, which should never undermine human ethical values.

The Institute of Business Ethics has engaged with organisations and technology experts to identify the founding values that form the cornerstone for the ethical framework of ‘ARTIFICIAL’ intelligence in business, expressed as this useful acronym:

A – Accuracy: Companies need to ensure that the AI systems they use produce correct, precise and reliable results.

R – Respect of privacy: Everyone has the right to the protection of personal data, as set out in the European Commission’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

T – Transparency and openness: More openness in the use of AI algorithms and systems helps the development community, the public and the media understand better how AI works.

I – Interpretability: Interpretable and explainable AI will be essential for business and the public to understand, trust and effectively manage ‘intelligent’ machines.

F – Fairness – Fairness and justice underpin the theory of creating value for all stakeholders - not just shareholders – and remain paramount for ethical businesses when dealing with AI.

I – Integrity: In the context of AI, we should ensure that it is used only for its intended purpose, even when there is no means to enforce this.

C – Control: To have full control over AI systems, it is important that both companies and algorithm designers only work with technology that they fully understand.

I – Impact: Companies need to identify the ethical risks of AI, who is going to be impacted – positively and negatively, who is going to bear the costs, and whether there is a valuable and less risky alternative.

A – Accountability: Who is responsible for the outcome of the decision-making process of an artificial agent? A valuable approach would be for every party involved to behave as if they were ultimately responsible.

L – Learning: To maximise the potential of AI, people need to learn how it works and what are the most efficient and effective ways to use it.

Working with regulators and policy makers, businesses have the opportunity to make a significant contribution to agree on a framework of ethics and norms in which AI can thrive and innovate safely.

The Institute of Business Ethics (IBE) is a charity which promotes high standards of business behaviour based on ethical values. Read the IBE’s Briefing Paper on artificial intelligence here. The IBE report, ‘Corporate Ethics in a Digital Age, poses nine challenges to boards about how AI is applied.