Why You Need an AI Ethics Committee

Article by Reid Blackman: “…There are a lot of well-documented and highly publicized ethical risks associated with AI; unintended bias and invasions of privacy are just two of the most notable kinds. In many instances the risks are specific to particular uses, like the possibility that self-driving cars will run over pedestrians or that AI-generated social media newsfeeds will sow distrust of public institutions. In some cases they’re major reputational, regulatory, financial, and legal threats. Because AI is built to operate at scale, when a problem occurs, it affects all the people the technology engages with—for instance, everyone who responds to a job listing or applies for a mortgage at a bank. If companies don’t carefully address ethical issues in planning and executing AI projects, they can waste a lot of time and money developing software that is ultimately too risky to use or sell, as many have already learned.

Your organization’s AI strategy needs to take into account several questions: How might the AI we design, procure, and deploy pose ethical risks that cannot be avoided? How do we systematically and comprehensively identify and mitigate them? If we ignore them, how much time and labor would it take us to respond to a regulatory investigation? How large a fine might we pay if found guilty, let alone negligent, of violating regulations or laws? How much would we need to spend to rebuild consumer and public trust, provided that money could solve the problem?

The answers to those questions will underscore how much your organization needs an AI ethical risk program. It must start at the executive level and permeate your company’s ranks—and, ultimately, the technology itself. In this article I’ll focus on one crucial element of such a program—an AI ethical risk committee—and explain why it’s critical that it include ethicists, lawyers, technologists, business strategists, and bias scouts. Then I’ll explore what that committee requires to be effective at a large enterprise.

But first, to provide a sense of why such a committee is so important, I’ll take a deep dive into the issue of discriminatory AI. Keep in mind that this is just one of the risks AI presents; there are many others that also need to be investigated in a systematic way…(More)”.