September 1, 2020 Author: Matthew Renze

With great power comes great responsibility.

Over the past several years, we’ve developed a few new superpowers as a result of modern AI. These new AI-enabled superpowers have led to some rather concerning legal, ethical, and social issues.

For example, we can now manipulate consumer purchase decisions based on a customer’s behavioral profile. We can now generate propaganda and fake news on an unprecedented scale. We can also impersonate politicians, celebrities, and executives with deep fakes. And this is all possible with today’s technology — the next generation of AI tools will likely lead to even more significant ethical concerns.

So how do we use our new AI superpowers responsibly and ethically?

Here are my top five recommendations:

Start Asking the Difficult Questions Now

If you haven’t spent any time contemplating any of the AI-created issues that we discussed above, you’re probably not prepared for what’s rapidly approaching. You don’t need to spend all day philosophizing about the legal, ethical, and political implications of AI — we’ll leave that up to the lawyers, philosophers, and politicians.

However, you do need to be thinking about what your core values are and whether they agree with or conflict with these new AI-created dilemas. Each of us needs to know where we stand on these key issues before they take us by surprise. Unfortunately, these societal changes are happening much faster than our social institutions are currently prepared to handle.

Avoid Bias in Your AI Models

It’s very easy to accidentally (or intentionally) create bias in your AI models. If you train a model with biased data, you’ll get biased results. As the old saying goes: “Garbage in… garbage out“. So you need to prevent bias from being encoded in the decisions, predictions, and processes automated by your AI models.

To make matters worse, these model-encoded biases can create feedback loops that can further reinforce and amplify existing socio-economic divisions in our society. This will make it progressively more difficult for disadvantaged individuals to compete with those who are advantaged by existing biases in our social norms, structures, and institutions.

Provide Transparency in Your AI Decisions

If AI becomes a magic black box that cannot be questioned, then how can anyone get any recourse when it makes an incorrect or biased decision? As a result, anytime you automate a decision with AI you should make that decision-making process as transparent as possible.

To do this, you should always use the simplest tool that effectively solves a given problem. Don’t use a deep neural network if a simple decision-tree classifier will suffice. In addition, use explainable AI tools when possible. Ask yourself, could I explain to a judge how this decision was made? If not, then it’s not transparent.

Protect Your Private Data From Abuse

If people knew what I could do with their personal data and the right algorithm, they would probably be a lot more cautious about what they do with their personal data. However, data scientists are quite a few steps ahead of the general public when it comes to our knowledge of the power of personal data. As a result, I encourage you to protect your private data from abuse.

Think about what you are willing to make public and protect everything that you want to remain private. Only entrust your personal data to organizations that you trust can and will protect your data. If you don’t, your data may be used against you somewhere down the line, and you will likely not even know that it’s happening.

Demand More From Our Leaders

As you can see, we have some serious AI-related legal, ethical, and social issues to deal with in our lifetimes. Unfortunately, many of our politicians do not understand AI well enough to make effective public-policy decisions. So, you need to choose representatives that understand AI and will use it to the benefit of our whole society.

In addition, you need to choose the right corporations to lead our economy in the right direction. You vote for these corporations every time you spend your money on their products and services. Please vote for them with your dollars and hold them accountable if and when they fail us.

With great power comes great responsibility and with AI we have the greatest responsibility known to humankind.

To learn how to use AI responsibility and ethically, please watch my free online course: Artificial Intelligence: Preparing Your Career for AI.

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