A Hippocratic Oath for artificial intelligence practitioners

                                                                                         Getty Images

In the forward to Microsoft’s recent book, The Future Computed, executives Brad Smith  and Harry Shum  proposed that Artificial Intelligence (AI) practitioners highlight their ethical commitments by taking an oath analogous to the Hippocratic Oath sworn by doctors for generations.

In the past, much power and responsibility over life and death was concentrated in the hands of doctors.

Now, this ethical burden is increasingly shared by the builders of AI software.

Future AI advances in medicine, transportation, manufacturing, robotics, simulation, augmented reality, virtual reality, military applications, dictate that AI be developed from a higher moral ground today.

In response, I (Oren Etzioni) edited the modern version of the medical oath to address the key ethical challenges that AI researchers and engineers face …

The oath is as follows:

I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:

I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those scientists and engineers in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.

I will apply, for the benefit of the humanity, all measures required, avoiding those twin traps of over-optimism and uniformed pessimism.

I will remember that there is an art to AI as well as science, and that human concerns outweigh technological ones.

Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life using AI, all thanks. But it may also be within AI’s power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty and the limitations of AI. Above all, I must not play at God nor let my technology do so.

I will respect the privacy of humans for their personal data are not disclosed to AI systems so that the world may know.

I will consider the impact of my work on fairness both in perpetuating historical biases, which is caused by the blind extrapolation from past data to future predictions, and in creating new conditions that increase economic or other inequality.

My AI will prevent harm whenever it can, for prevention is preferable to cure.

My AI will seek to collaborate with people for the greater good, rather than usurp the human role and supplant them.

I will remember that I am not encountering dry data, mere zeros and ones, but human beings, whose interactions with my AI software may affect the person’s freedom, family, or economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems.

I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings.

Source: TechCrunch – Oren Etzioni

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What can AI learn from non-Western philosophies?

Belgian Ian Frejean, 11, walks with “Zora” the robot, a humanoid robot designed to entertain patients and to support care providers, at AZ Damiaan hospital in Ostend, Belgium

As autonomous and intelligent systems become more and more ubiquitous and sophisticated, developers and users face an important question:

How do we ensure that when these technologies are in a position to make a decision, they make the right decision — the ethically right decision?

It’s a complicated question. And there’s not one single right answer. 

But there is one thing that people who work in the budding field of AI ethics seem to agree on.

“I think there is a domination of Western philosophy, so to speak, in AI ethics,” said Dr. Pak-Hang Wong, who studies Philosophy of Technology and Ethics at the University of Hamburg, in Germany. “By that I mean, when we look at AI ethics, most likely they are appealing to values … in the Western philosophical traditions, such as value of freedom, autonomy and so on.”

Wong is among a group of researchers trying to widen that scope, by looking at how non-Western value systems — including Confucianism, Buddhism and Ubuntu — can influence how autonomous and intelligent designs are developed and how they operate.

“We’re providing standards as a starting place. And then from there, it may be a matter of each tradition, each culture, different governments, establishing their own creation based on the standards that we are providing.” 
Jared Bielby, who heads the Classical Ethics committee

Source: PRI



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Why Ethical Robots Might Not Be Such a Good Idea After All

Nao ethical robotThis week my colleague Dieter Vanderelst presented our paper: “The Dark Side of Ethical Robots” at AIES 2018 in New Orleans.

I blogged about Dieter’s very elegant experiment here, but let me summarize. With two NAO robots he set up a demonstration of an ethical robot helping another robot acting as a proxy human, then showed that with a very simple alteration of the ethical robot’s logic it is transformed into a distinctly unethical robot—behaving either competitively or aggressively toward the proxy human.

Here are our paper’s key conclusions:

The ease of transformation from ethical to unethical robot is hardly surprising. It is a straightforward consequence of the fact that both ethical and unethical behaviors require the same cognitive machinery with—in our implementation—only a subtle difference in the way a single value is calculated. In fact, the difference between an ethical (i.e. seeking the most desirable outcomes for the human) robot and an aggressive (i.e. seeking the least desirable outcomes for the human) robot is a simple negation of this value.

Let us examine the risks associated with ethical robots and if, and how, they might be mitigated. There are three.

  1. First there is the risk that an unscrupulous manufacturer
  2. Perhaps more serious is the risk arising from robots that have user adjustable ethics settings.
  3. But even hard-coded ethics would not guard against undoubtedly the most serious risk of all, which arises when those ethical rules are vulnerable to malicious hacking.

It is very clear that guaranteeing the security of ethical robots is beyond the scope of engineering and will need regulatory and legislative efforts.

Considering the ethical, legal and societal implications of robots, it becomes obvious that robots themselves are not where responsibility lies. Robots are simply smart machines of various kinds and the responsibility to ensure they behave well must always lie with human beings. In other words, we require ethical governance, and this is equally true for robots with or without explicit ethical behaviors.

Two years ago I thought the benefits of ethical robots outweighed the risks. Now I’m not so sure.

I now believe that – even with strong ethical governance—the risks that a robot’s ethics might be compromised by unscrupulous actors are so great as to raise very serious doubts over the wisdom of embedding ethical decision making in real-world safety critical robots, such as driverless cars. Ethical robots might not be such a good idea after all.

Thus, even though we’re calling into question the wisdom of explicitly ethical robots, that doesn’t change the fact that we absolutely must design all robots to minimize the likelihood of ethical harms, in other words we should be designing implicitly ethical robots within Moor’s schema.

Source: IEEE



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What’s Bigger Than Fire and Electricity? Artificial Intelligence – Google

Google CEO Sundar Pichai believes artificial intelligence could have “more profound” implications for humanity than electricity or fire, according to recent comments.

Pichai also warned that the development of artificial intelligence could pose as much risk as that of fire if its potential is not harnessed correctly.

“AI is one of the most important things humanity is working on” Pichai said in an interview with MSNBC and Recode

“My point is AI is really important, but we have to be concerned about it,” Pichai said. “It’s fair to be worried about it—I wouldn’t say we’re just being optimistic about it— we want to be thoughtful about it. AI holds the potential for some of the biggest advances we’re going to see.”

Source: Newsweek

 

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DeepMind’s new AI ethics unit

DeepMind made this announcement Oct 2017

Google-owned DeepMind has announced the formation of a major new AI research unit comprised of full-time staff and external advisors

DrAfter123/iStock

As we hand over more of our lives to artificial intelligence systems, keeping a firm grip on their ethical and societal impact is crucial.

DeepMind Ethics & Society (DMES), a unit comprised of both full-time DeepMind employees and external fellows, is the company’s latest attempt to scrutinise the societal impacts of the technologies it creates.

DMES will work alongside technologists within DeepMind and fund external research based on six areas: privacy transparency and fairness; economic impacts; governance and accountability; managing AI risk; AI morality and values; and how AI can address the world’s challenges.

Its aim, according to DeepMind, is twofold: to help technologists understand the ethical implications of their work and help society decide how AI can be beneficial.

“We want these systems in production to be our highest collective selves. We want them to be most respectful of human rights, we want them to be most respectful of all the equality and civil rights laws that have been so valiantly fought for over the last sixty years.” [Mustafa Suleyman]

Source: Wired

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IEEE launches ethical design guide for AI developers

As autonomous and intelligent systems become more pervasive, it is essential the designers and developers behind them stop to consider the ethical considerations of what they are unleashing.

That’s the view of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) which this week released for feedback its second Ethically Aligned Design document in an attempt

to ensure such systems “remain human-centric”.

“These systems have to behave in a way that is beneficial to people beyond reaching functional goals and addressing technical problems. This will allow for an elevated level of trust between people and technology that is needed for its fruitful, pervasive use in our daily lives,” the document states.

“Defining what exactly ‘right’ and ‘good’ are in a digital future is a question of great complexity that places us at the intersection of technology and ethics,” 

“Throwing our hands up in air crying ‘it’s too hard’ while we sit back and watch technology careen us forward into a future that happens to us, rather than one we create, is hardly a viable option.

“This publication is a truly game-changing and promising first step in a direction – which has often felt long in coming – toward breaking the protective wall of specialisation that has allowed technologists to disassociate from the societal impacts of their technologies.”

“It will demand that future tech leaders begin to take responsibility for and think deeply about the non-technical impact on disempowered groups, on privacy and justice, on physical and mental health, right down to unpacking hidden biases and moral implications. It represents a positive step toward ensuring the technology we build as humans genuinely benefits us and our planet,” [University of Sydney software engineering Professor Rafael Calvo.]

“We believe explicitly aligning technology with ethical values will help advance innovation with these new tools while diminishing fear in the process” the IEEE said.

Source: Computer World



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Teaching an Algorithm to Understand Right and Wrong

hbr-ai-morals

Aristotle states that it is a fact that “all knowledge and every pursuit aims at some good,” but then continues, “What then do we mean by the good?” That, in essence, encapsulates the ethical dilemma.

We all agree that we should be good and just, but it’s much harder to decide what that entails.

“We need to decide to what extent the legal principles that we use to regulate humans can be used for machines. There is a great potential for machines to alert us to bias. We need to not only train our algorithms but also be open to the possibility that they can teach us about ourselves.” – Francesca Rossi, an AI researcher at IBM

Since Aristotle’s time, the questions he raised have been continually discussed and debated. 

Today, as we enter a “cognitive era” of thinking machines, the problem of what should guide our actions is gaining newfound importance. If we find it so difficult to denote the principles by which a person should act justly and wisely, then how are we to encode them within the artificial intelligences we are creating? It is a question that we need to come up with answers for soon.

Cultural Norms vs. Moral Values

Another issue that we will have to contend with is that we will have to decide not only what ethical principles to encode in artificial intelligences but also how they are coded. As noted above, for the most part, “Thou shalt not kill” is a strict principle. Other than a few rare cases, such as the Secret Service or a soldier, it’s more like a preference that is greatly affected by context.

What makes one thing a moral value and another a cultural norm? Well, that’s a tough question for even the most-lauded human ethicists, but we will need to code those decisions into our algorithms. In some cases, there will be strict principles; in others, merely preferences based on context. For some tasks, algorithms will need to be coded differently according to what jurisdiction they operate in.

Setting a Higher Standard

Most AI experts I’ve spoken to think that we will need to set higher moral standards for artificial intelligences than we do for humans.

Major industry players, such as Google, IBM, Amazon, and Facebook, recently set up a partnership to create an open platform between leading AI companies and stakeholders in academia, government, and industry to advance understanding and promote best practices. Yet that is merely a starting point.

Source: Harvard Business Review

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The Ethics Of AI Fulfilling Our Desires Vs Saving Us From Ourselves

What happens as machines are called upon to make ever more complex and important decisions on our behalf?

Big data

A display at the Big Bang Data exhibition at Somerset House highlighting the data explosion that’s radically transforming our lives. (Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images for Somerset House)

Driverless cars are among the early intelligent systems being asked to make life or death decisions. While current vehicles perform mostly routine tasks like basic steering and collision avoidance, the new generation of fully autonomous cars being test driven pose unique ethical challenges.

For example, “should an autonomous vehicle sacrifice its occupant by swerving off a cliff to avoid killing a school bus full of children?”

Alternatively, should a car “swerve onto a crowded sidewalk to avoid being rear-ended by a speeding truck or stay put and place the driver in mortal danger?”

On a more mundane level, driverless cars have already faced safety questions for strictly obeying traffic laws, creating a safety hazard as the surrounding traffic goes substantially faster.

Digital assistants and our health

Imagine for a moment the digital assistant that processes a note from our doctor warning us about the results of our latest medical checkup and that we need to lose weight and stay away from certain foods. At the same time, the assistant sees from our connected health devices that we’re not exercising much anymore and that we’ve been consuming a lot of junk food lately and actually gained three pounds last week and two pounds already this week. Now, it is quitting time on Friday afternoon and the assistant knows that every Friday night we stop by our local store for a 12 pack of donuts on the way home. What should that assistant do?

Should our digital assistant politely suggest we skip the donuts this week? Should it warn us in graphic detail about the health complications we will likely face down the road if we buy those donuts tonight? Should it go as far as to threaten to lock us out of our favorite mobile games on our phone or withhold our email or some other features for the next few days as punishment if we buy those donuts? Should it quietly send a note to our doctor telling her we bought donuts and asking for advice? Or, should it go as far as to instruct the credit card company to decline the transaction to stop us from buying the donuts?

The Cultural Challenge

Moreover, how should algorithms handle the cultural differences that are inherent to such value decisions? Should a personal assistant of someone living in Saudi Arabia who expresses interest in anti-government protest movements discourage further interest in the topic? Should the assistant of someone living in Thailand censor the person’s communications to edit out criticism of government officials to protect the person from reprisals?

Should an assistant that determines its user is depressed try to cheer that person up by masking negative news and deluging him with the most positive news it can find to try to improve his emotional state? What happens when those decisions are complicated by the desires of advertisers that pay for a particular outcome?

As artificial intelligence develops at an exponential rate, what are the value systems and ethics with which we should imbue our new digital servants?

When algorithms start giving us orders, should they fulfill our innermost desires or should they save us from ourselves?

This is the future of AI.

Source: Forbes

Read more on AI ethics on our post: How To Teach Robots Right and Wrong

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