Artificial intelligence doesn’t have to be evil. We just have to teach it to be good

Training an AI platform on social media data, with the intent to reproduce a “human” experience, is fraught with risk. You could liken it to raising a baby on a steady diet of Fox News or CNN, with no input from its parents or social institutions. In either case, you might be breeding a monster.

Ultimately, social data — alone — represents neither who we actually are nor who we should be. Deeper still, as useful as the social graph can be in providing a training set for AI, what’s missing is a sense of ethics or a moral framework to evaluate all this data. From the spectrum of human experience shared on Twitter, Facebook and other networks, which behaviors should be modeled and which should be avoided? Which actions are right and which are wrong? What’s good … and what’s evil?

Here’s where science comes up short. The answers can’t be gleaned from any social data set. The best analytical tools won’t surface them, no matter how large the sample size.

But they just might be found in the Bible. And the Koran, the Torah, the Bhagavad Gita and the Buddhist Sutras. They’re in the work of Aristotle, Plato, Confucius, Descartes and other philosophers both ancient and modern.

AI, to be effective, needs an ethical underpinning. Data alone isn’t enough. AI needs religion — a code that doesn’t change based on context or training set. 

In place of parents and priests, responsibility for this ethical education will increasingly rest on frontline developers and scientists.

As emphasized by leading AI researcher Will Bridewell, it’s critical that future developers are “aware of the ethical status of their work and understand the social implications of what they develop.” He goes so far as to advocate study in Aristotle’s ethics and Buddhist ethics so they can “better track intuitions about moral and ethical behavior.”

On a deeper level, responsibility rests with the organizations that employ these developers, the industries they’re part of, the governments that regulate those industries and — in the end — us.

Source: Recode Ryan Holmes is the founder and CEO of Hootsuite