The role of technology in our lives, society, and democracy has been on a steady rise for decades. Many of these technologies are truly inspiring and beneficial, however there are other more troubling aspects as well. People that use technology for things such as misinformation campaigns to shift election results, to sell and distribute illegal materials, or to violate the privacy of others have also benefited from the leaps that have been made in technology. This is why it is imperative that those in the technology sector begin to take more responsibility for not only the positive impacts these systems create, but also for the negative ways we are seeing the technology being used.
In the Spring of this year Google announced that it was creating an external ethics board to help guide the responsible development of AI. However, the company faced major backlash over a choice to include the president of a right-leaning think tank. The industry must do better. The technology industry has to deal with the public in an honest and open manner if it hopes to create ethical parameters moving forward.
In 2017 a Tesla driver was using the car’s Autopilot system when the vehicle nicked a raised curb and the tires shredded. The driver left the scene unharmed, but understandably shaken up. Tesla issued a statement explaining that the Autopilot setting is only intended for use by a fully attentive driver. However, companies using Artificial Intelligence, such as Tesla, must take ethical and safety challenges into deeper consideration as they continue to create products vitalizing this new technology.
In every industry using AI technology there will be inevitable trouble areas that will require more attention to navigate. During the United States most recent presidential election these issues were highlighted when it came to global attention that people were creating fake images, videos, and recordings with such sophistication it was hard to separate the fake content from the real information. These negative applications can have ominous effects on society as a whole. While there are a plethora of exciting new opportunities being created, the industry must find a balance and a way to manage this software.
As companies such as Google, Microsoft, and Facebook embrace ethical self-scrutiny ethics boards and charters are constructed. More research in algorithmic bias is performed and guidelines are written. However, the question remains, are these boards actually doing anything substantial? The technology industry may very well care about ethics, but it seems that many are operating under the mentality of not asking for permission, and instead asking for forgiveness after the fact. Are these ethics boards actually doing anything to evoke change?
The government has been stepping in and everyone seems to be on board with continuing to build ethical guard rails to help rein in the use of artificial intelligence. However, we will have to pay close attention to see if this isn’t another way to avoid more regulations and continue down the same path.