20 June 2023

Ethics in a world with AI

It might have been obvious to you 8 years ago too that AI and Big Data (as much data analytics was being tagged) were going to be a big issue. It was apparent to me that *Big Data*, the burgeoning interest in a subfield of AI called Machine Learning (yes subfield!), and new capabilities that GPU hardware was enabling were going to have a direct impact on people’s behaviour, and how society would operate in the future.  

Fast forward 8 years and we’ve seen the Cambridge Analytica scandal, various elections influenced, robot humanoids *and* brain implants from Elon Musk, large public sector algorithmic bias cases in court proceedings as well as benefit fraud. We’ve had automated car crashes, generated text and imagery ready to flood the internet, jam up the pipes, and obscure the already opaque. It wasn’t super clear to me then what was coming, but I’m sure as hell clear what is here now!  

However you want to cut it – ethical thinking, human-centered design, due diligence, safety; the possibility of mass scale and speed predictive technologies is changing how we and the world lives. I set up the Machine Ethics (www.machine-ethics.net) podcast back in early 2016 as I want to learn more from the people studying and creating these technologies. All these years later I’ve had the massive privilege to chat with esteemed academics, data scientists, designers, authors, business leaders, futurists, roboticists, and more on the podcast concerning everything from machine learning tools to environmental impacts, legislation, and existential risks.

Along the way, I’ve been able to pick up a thing or two about ethics, data science, design, and development. I’ve been able to apply it to the various talks, workshops, articles, academic research, and consulting I’ve been involved with, some through (www.ethicalby.design/). There are still mountains to climb, many new technology developments, and the ever-changing process of “doing ethics” which keeps me interested in the area of AI Ethics generally. To me technology has the potential to do such good and such damage, it will take a village to get these things right.   So if you’re in the privileged position to be helping create the new mass market technology, please concern yourself and the team around you with your users, your values and cultures; pressures from business and the economic environment; the current and near-future legal situation; as well as your own striving for producing something virtuous, something that is pointing in the right direction, a direction we can all follow.  

Ben Byford – https://www.benbyford.com

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