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The ethics of AI: Tool, partner or controller?

Experts discuss the ethical implications of artificial intelligence and machine learning, including issues of privacy and control as AI capabilities evolve.

Advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning are pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in both business and our everyday lives, from sophisticated algorithm-driven platforms to autonomous cars. But with these advances come growing concerns around privacy and control: How do we determine what we should—and shouldn’t—do with AI capabilities as they evolve over time? And who, if anyone, is going to regulate that?

That’s where the ethics of AI comes in. Experts sat down to explore the far-reaching implications of how we develop, use, and understand AI technology. One of the issues, they pointed out, is lack of transparency. That is, as AI and deep learning tools become increasingly complex and autonomous, it won’t necessarily be clear how they work and make decisions, panelists noted. That means businesses could face some tough ethical questions and regulatory consequences when things go wrong—as in the case of an autonomous car crashing, for example.

The discussion also turned to more philosophical questions like, “What constitutes an intelligence?” and “Is that the same as a consciousness?” While views on these loftier topics varied, panelists agreed that ethics will play a central role in the world of AI and machine learning as the line between “tool” and “partner” begins to blur. 

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