AI is such a convenient part of our lives it is sometimes easy to forget that we interact with it daily. AI can be found in software such as voice assistants, streaming apps, facial recognition software as well as navigation and travel technologies. We can expect it to become increasingly popular as data from Accenture’s research shows that in the upcoming year, more than 65 percent of companies plan to invest in AI. While this technology has given us great convenience, if used unethically for purposes such as disinformation, deception, human abuse, or political suppression, AI can have severe effects on individuals, the environment, and society.
This uncertainty has given rise to the popularity of Ethical AI. Ethical AI is artificial intelligence that is built on the pillars of fairness, accountability, transparency, and expandability. It aims to adhere to well-defined ethical guidelines and fundamental values, including such things as individual rights, privacy, non-discrimination, and non-manipulation. Ethical AI considers aspects beyond what is permissible by law and sets legal requirements as a minimum threshold of acceptability for AI.
One of the most recent and widely talked about cases of misuse is the Cambridge Analytica scandal that arose in March of 2018. This case is the largest known leak in Facebook history, in which we saw Cambridge Analytica sell psychological profiles of American voters to political campaigns that were acquired from the private Facebook data of tens of millions of users. As can be seen, the current laws and regulations are generally not sufficient to prevent the misuse of AI. This means right now it is largely the responsibility of individuals and organizations who use AI, as well as those who develop and provide AI tools and technology, to practice ethical AI.
There are a couple of progressive companies that are investing in ethical AI research and building frameworks that support the use of ethical AI, such as IBM, Apple, Microsoft, Meta, and Google. Though in order to ensure the ethical use of AI and avoid the harmful results of AI misuse, comprehensive policies that are actively enforced need to be put in place at a broader level.
There have been efforts to operationalize responsible AI in the federal government, and there are currently dozens of separate AI ethics, policy, and technical working groups scattered across various federal departments and agencies, spanning the defense, civil, and legislative spheres. Each group is pursuing important goals of defining policies related to AI. While a few overall governance structures for AI policy have begun, because of the lack of a unified and comprehensive approach, the resulting policies may be incomplete, inconsistent, or incompatible with each other.
The ideal goal would be to build strong policies informing laws that can be codified into regulation, that are then enabled by standards, that then inform methods or proven techniques that utilize defined standards to accomplish required tasks that fulfill regulations, that are then enacted through processes or step-by-step, detailed workflows, often documented as standard operating procedures at an agency level.
Ethical AI can help organizations operate more efficiently, produce cleaner products, reduce harmful environmental impacts, increase public safety, and improve human health. In order to ensure we continue to reap the benefits without suffering the catastrophic consequences of AI misuse, we must start conversations about and support the development of ethical AI research, practices and policies. As AI is embedded deeply into our everyday practice as a public relations and digital marketing firm, we will continue to monitor the growth of AI and the policies that surround it.
By: Jocelyn Sandoval
Sammis|Ochoa is San Antonio’s fastest-growing public relations and digital marketing agency. It is the 2020 recipient of the TinyAward for Happiest Employees in Public Relations. It also ranks as one of San Antonio’s best PR firms by Design Rush. The firm is headquartered in San Antonio and serves clients in Austin, Houston and San Antonio. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 210.390.4284 to amp up your PR game!