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Ethics becomes a key focus for artificial intelligence adoption

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In the last few years, there has been an increasing focus on the need for adequate ethics guidance for the use of artificial intelligence and robots – something we have regularly written and spoken about. For example, in 2017, MEPs from the EU parliament’s legal affairs committee passing Mady Delvaux’s report into robotics and AI and Germany laid out a set of Ethical rules for automated and connected vehicular traffic. In 2018, more than 90% (1000+ signatories) at the Asilomar Conference agreed on a set of AI Principles

On 18 December 2018, the European Commission’s High Level Expert Group on AI (“AI- HLEG”) issued its draft ethics guidelines for ‘trustworthy AI’ in Europe: The guidelines focus on how to achieve ‘trustworthy AI’ which AI HLEG describe as combining both an ethical purpose and being a technically robust AI system. They look closely at the values which should form an ethical purpose for Trustworthy AI, how we can implement these values into AI systems both through technical and non-technical methods, and once implemented, how we can ensure these values are upheld during the AI systems operation through the use of appropriate assessment criteria.

The guidelines have been subject to consultation and, off the back of consultation, a final version of the guidelines is due in March 2019. Whilst some ethical guidance for suppliers and consumers of this technology must be a good thing, as with the actual laws which apply to artificial intelligence, the ethical guidance is being produced in an ad hoc manner - generally country by country (or even state by state) or continent by continent. Additionally, not all companies and countries share the same view as to what is ethical or acceptable (including the use of AI in relation to weapons). What seems clear, is that as the uptake of AI grows, this is an area where suppliers and customers will need to follow closely the laws and guidance and approach their building and/or use of AI accordingly.

For more information please contact Charlotte Walker-Osborn.