PhD in Particle Physics, Researcher in Artificial Intelligence, NTNU. Member of the Board of Directors of the Norwegian Council for Digital Ethics.
Doctor and researcher in Artificial Intelligence in Medicine at Oslo University Hospital and University of Oslo. Member of the Board of Directors of the Norwegian Council for Digital Ethics.
An AI developer may be asked to create systems that spread ‘fake news’.
This is the topic of discussion. Opinions expressed in the text are at the author’s expense.
If the hospital director asks the doctor to perform surgeries on healthy patients to beautify the stats, the doctor may refuse and point out that the inappropriate treatment violates the Health Workers Act.
There is no similar legislation for artificial intelligence (AI) developers. These only have non-binding ethical guidelines. It is time to give AI developers the same responsibility and protection as doctors.
There is no professional ethics
Doctors have such a huge impact on our lives that we protect their profession with a permit and call it a “profession”. Other professions include lawyers and engineers.
Violation of professional ethics has consequences. The doctor may lose his permission and be prosecuted, but the doctor may not be dismissed for refusing to violate professional ethics. In addition, it is difficult for an employer to replace one doctor with another, since all doctors are included in the regulation.
In artificial intelligence, the situation is completely different. There are no professional ethics for AI developers.
An AI developer may be asked to create systems that categorize people based on race or appearance, monitor minorities, or spread “fake news”. All this is taken from reality.
If an AI developer refuses to develop improper systems, he may lose his job or be replaced by another developer. Thus AI developers can end up splitting between commercial interests and the best interests of society.
Community Interests Vs. employer
new research article refers to it social dilemma AI developers must balance the interests of society and the interests of the employer.
The social dilemma is characterized by the fact that the best outcome for society occurs if everyone cooperates, but no one does because the cost to the individual is too high. We all know we should travel less, but few are willing to sacrifice their vacation.
The climate crisis is just one example of how social dilemmas cannot be resolved at the individual level, but depend on coordination mechanisms.
Professional ethics is one such mechanism that protects an individual from ending up in a split. The responsibility for the ethically sound development of AI must be placed at the societal level. With a mandate or professional ethics, an AI developer who refuses to develop unethical algorithms cannot simply be replaced by another developer.
As long as AI developers do not have professional ethics, the ethically sound development of AI cannot be guaranteed.
Let us realize that AI will have a significant impact on society, and act accordingly. We’ve already seen scandals like electoral influence and discrimination.
Medical history contains atrocities involving humans such as guinea pigs. So we have acquired a professional ethics for doctors. So far, we have avoided the equally fatal outcomes related to AI. But it is necessary to establish a professional ethics for AI developers.
Over the centuries, medicine has evolved into a mature field with evidence-based practice and expertise in ethical dilemmas. The rapid development of artificial intelligence affecting our lives does not give us time to try and fail our way to a safe practice.
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