AI ethics and the business of trust

Following on from our consideration of ethical AI last year we look at the more recent developments and potential legislation.

According to figures released earlier this month from the Capgemini Research Institute, ethical AI is not just a major concern for consumers (74 percent), it could also impact customer loyalty. If a business can show ethical AI use, 62 percent of consumers would place higher trust in that company. By contrast, 41 percent said they would complain over misuse of AI and 34 percent would stop interacting with a company if its AI use was unethical.

It's not wholly unsurprising research but it does raise the whole issue of trust. It also raises the point of what is deemed ethical, when it comes to AI use. Who decides? Businesses, consumers, governments, academics or a mash-up of all of them?

Interestingly, the Capgemini research also revealed that 74 percent of consumers want more transparency when a service is powered by AI, and over three quarters think there should be further regulation on how companies use AI.

For Christopher Manning, a professor of computer science and linguistics at Stanford University and director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, this increasing call for clarity with AI is to be expected. Manning, who also works closely with Chetan Dube at IPsoft on the development of its cognitive agent Amelia, has been instrumental in setting up the Stanford Institute for Human-Centred AI.

"One of the leading ideas is that a lot of these questions about ethics and bias need a broader expertise," he says. "It's not just about computer scientists dictating the direction and what is and isn't ethical. Humanists and social scientists have experience and expertise in these areas, so we need a broad range of people engaged in the conversation."

His view is that governments, as well as academics can drive this. While he says "we definitely do need more regulation," he is also wary of too much government intervention.

"I do believe it needs to be done with a light touch," adds Manning. "You don't want to be derailing the development of new technologies by regulating them too much too soon. The big question is what to regulate. I'm quite dubious. While I understand the sentiment, it is very hard to come up with something that is reasonable, possible and well-structured, especially when you are trying to do it universally and apply it to all AI."

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