AI: using trust and ethics to accelerate adoption

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AI technologies have moved faster than society. We need a better understanding of how AI transforms society, who is most affected, why, and the consequences.

Due to the most recent progresses in machine learning, big data and computational power, artificial intelligence (AI) is widely accepted as having the potential to transform every industry and to overcome the biggest challenges facing society. AI may well be a revolution in human affairs and become the single most influential innovation in history.

As with so many technological breakthroughs, progress in AI technologies has moved faster than society. We need a better understanding of how AI transforms our societies, who is most affected, why, and the consequences. Social and behavioural sciences will be crucial to make sense of these shifts and help us navigate them. They will shed light on the choice societies need to make as they chart a future in which AI is pretty much everywhere.

Deep Learning

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However, we are all learning that AI doesn’t just scale solutions, it also scales risks. To build and retain public trust, it is important those developing and deploying AI solutions are aware of the dangers and unintended consequences of AI and prepare for them.

AI systems learn from humans and generates outcomes based on existing data. The results inevitably reflect our own biases, be it:

  • race
  • sex
  • gender
  • socio-economic status.

Ethics is the new frontier

With the rise of AI across all facets of society, ethics is the new frontier of technology. Businesses and governments are already gearing up for more ethical and responsible uses of AI. Questions about the ethics of AI are uncomfortable, as they require us to reflect on our own ethics and those of the people who make the systems and society generally. Algorithms do not have ethics or values, but people do.

Key to realising the positive benefits of AI is our ability to navigate uncertainty in an ethical, responsible, and sustainable way.

Gartner identified ‘smarter, responsible and scalable AI’ as the number one market trend in 2021. Responsible use of AI is proving to be a competitive differentiator and key success factor for the adoption of AI technologies. However, cultural challenges, and particularly the lack of trust, are still deemed to be the main obstacles preventing broader and faster adoption of AI.

When most organisations think about AI ethics, they often overlook some of the sources of greatest risk.  For example:

AI (Artificial Intelligence) concept. Electronic circuit. Communication network.

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  • procurement officers and senior leaders who lack the expertise to vet ethical risk in AI projects
  • data scientists and engineers who lack the practical knowledge to mitigate ethical risks in the AI products they are developing.

Fixing this requires both awareness and buy-in across the board. Creating this cross-national or cross-organisational awareness requires work.

Corporate governance is another area that needs attention and educating boards and risk committees will be key to show top-down ownership and ethical leadership.

Support for ethical development and deployment

To support businesses wanting to adopt an ethical and responsible approach to their machine learning development, Digital Catapult, supported by Innovate UK, has created an applied and practical methodology for AI machine learning ethics.

As the innovation agency of the UK, Innovate UK is also championing the development and commercialisation of responsible innovation, including the responsible and ethical use of AI, across all our sectoral engagements. This is by working closely with our partner organisations to increase the awareness and understanding of the benefits, risks and unintended consequences of AI.

Several underlying societal and economic trends, accelerated by the pandemic and the economic crisis, exposed many vulnerabilities in supply chains. Those trends will help to accelerate the adoption of AI technologies, although the ultimate pace will be determined by governments’ attitudes toward these significant events and individuals’ ability and willingness to embrace change.

As the technology continues to evolve at lightning speed, UK Research and Innovation has a key role to support academics and industry embrace domestic creativity. To develop solutions that use the power of AI to solve pressing issues in the UK and around the world.

No single organisation can address the full range of challenges presented by AI, nor can anyone solely deliver all the immense benefits that AI can offer to society. With so many challenges to overcome and so many opportunities to unlock, only robust collaboration can ensure that we maximise the benefits of AI.

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