Utilizing Ethical Design to Safeguard the Future of AI

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Marisa White

The Impact of AI without Ethical Design

Data breaches and customer privacy cover the newsfeeds of users across the globe. The rise of the robots and dystopian films paint a picture of lack of control over innovation.  How far are we from the realization of the unintended consequences of automation? These examples litter the internet of automation not to mention the myriad of other realized or unrealized fears in the market.

Some of the more popular examples include:

Racial bias perpetuated from misrepresentation of current data—the most popular example coming from the infamous Racist Twitter Bot.

 Unemployment with the advancement of Automation—while many organizations dispel the fear around job displacement with the idea of upskilling and relocation, the fact that jobs will be replaced by bots remains a fact. What does this mean for the working class? McKinsey sites          73 percent of the activities workers perform in food service and accommodations, 53% of activities within retail and 59% of activities of manufacturing can be replaced by automation.

Our state of Humanity & Interaction—with the advancement of technology at large, how do we continue to keep human interaction, attention, and empathy in tact. With AI optimizing experiences at our fingertips, intelligence in bots crating more human interactions via chat and other channels, and the instant gratification achieved through online interactions, are we losing what it means to be human?   How do machines affect our behavior and interaction?


How to Approach the Design of AI To Drive Sustainable Futures

Without the application of Ethical Design into the creation of new advancements in AI, companies will continue to be impacted by the negative impacts of AI.

Amazon’s AI for Recruitment became misogynous, IBM’s Watson for Oncology safety issues, PwC reporting  30% of jobs overall to be replaced with AI, children who spend their days on screen instead of in real life, these case studies are current and happening now.

Applying ethical design into the creation of AI offers a  pathway to pro-actively combat these consequences.  

How to Overcome the Ethical Obstacles of AI

These challenges are large and hard hitting, however offer solutions that can be easily addressed in organizations currently optimizing innovations in AI. Below are a few steps:


  1. Integrate Ethical Design into AI Product Design

These frameworks and methodologies cannot be treated as separate entities, instead the ethical considerations and checkpoints must become integral in the creation of any said product.

  1. Collaboration with Customers & Stakeholders is Key

Bringing cross-functional and diverse stakeholders into the room can eliminate errors and missed observations in the creation of AI driven products. Additionally, a heavy voice of the customer present in creation also allows for challenges to be pro-actively addressed.


  1. Invest in Your Employees for Future Success

Employees need to feel secure and the case study around AI job displacement is often reduced or eliminated when factoring in the additional jobs created and necessary once current positions are automated. However, this requires a heavy hand in upskilling and developing the workforce for these positions.


Ethical Design as a Priority in AI Creation

The bottom line is that this needs to matter to your organization, employees, and leadership for action to be taken. In order to dodge these tribulations, mandating ethical design as a factor as important as your bottom line and as central as your C-Suite will drive substantial change.

An example, published in HealthCareIT News, Philips CTO Henk van Houten walks through the impact of their AI initiatives.

First, they have created clarity across the division publishing a list of guiding principles and responsible use of AI in healthcare and personal health. They also have engaged the employee base, generating validation and insights from engineers, data scientists, and clinical experts.

Finally, the creation of AI-enabled solutions works in partnership with providers, payers, patients, researchers, and regulators—customers—in order to provide full transparency.

These actions have resulted in the successful launch of several AI enabled solutions, offering dozens  including VitalEye for automated breathing detection, IntelliSpace Portal, an advanced data integration platform to enhance diagnostic confidence and many more innovations.

Ethical Design is not a nice to have for AI, it is your competitive advantage.