HSBC’s Dr Juergen Rahmel believes we need an ethical framework for the coming era of AI – what might this look like?
Like many new technologies, Artificial Intelligence (AI) brings us countless potential benefits while introducing a whole raft of new dangers. Dr Juergen Rahmel, Chief Digital Officer at HSBC Germany and an AI researcher, argues that a coherent approach to ethics is needed in this fast-expanding field. “It comes down to the decision: of all that we could do, what is it that we should do?”
At root, implementing ethical governance of AI is no different to businesses promising not to pollute rivers or use child labour. It is about “conducting business not only in an individually profitable manner, but also following a holistic approach which serves the collective.” Rahmel, who will be speaking at Big Data & AI World in London this March, focuses on ethical governance for AI at HSBC. What has he learnt?
An ethical Wild West
While AI and machine learning now appear almost ubiquitous, until relatively recently it was a pursuit mainly carried on in academia. And as a growing list of companies begin using AI-powered tools to crunch their data, a number of ethical problems have been introduced. “Naturally businesses operate with the intention to maximize their profits, which might lead to morally debatable results,” points out Rahmel.
Widley-cited examples include applications which reinforce existing social injustices in policing or housing and job applications. Rahmel explains that “not every application of AI is accompanied by a good framework of ‘acceptable use’”. While AI is still relatively new in the business world, it is rapidly catching on and widely available AI tools are enabling businesses of all stripes. Until now, however, there has been relatively little clear guidance on the ethical limits and governance of AI.
Why do we need ethical governance for AI?
Notions of ethics and AI may at first appear to be more within the remit of philosophers than corporations. But for Rahmel, there is a pressing business need: “I strongly believe that the full potential of AI can only be realised within a framework that supports trust and operates in a scope that benefits each stakeholder.” If companies fail to use AI in an ethical way, customers will refuse to hand data over to them and begin seeking alternatives – as can be seen in the backlash against the world’s tech giants in recent years.