Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Monday, August 2, 2021

World Economic Forum Tackling Ethical AI 

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The World Economic Forum (WEF) is joining the expanding global efforts to forge ethical, trusted AI policies and procedures for its use across the enterprise and society. The group is aiming for that goal through the creation of working groups that will seek to close an “implementation gap” between defining ethical standards and actually deploying them in AI-based systems.

Noting the growing number of organizations espousing ethical AI principles, the group said its AI Action Alliance will tackle the current shortfall in deploying ethical AI systems. The group's more than 175 guiding principles are a step forward, organizers said, but a resulting implementation gap underscores the reality that “it is easier to define the ethical standards a system should meet than to design and deploy a system to meet them.”

The Forum also identified the problem of siloed AI development with “few mechanisms in place to drive global collaboration and rapid scaling of proven tools and practices” as an issue where it will also focus its attention.

To bring order to ethical AI initiatives, the Alliance will seek to organize and accelerate development and deployment of trusted AI platforms across different sectors while creating mechanisms needed for scaling those systems. Those efforts would dovetail with existing AI-related efforts, including the Forum’s Data for Common Purpose Initiative, which seeks to orient data policy and models around specific use cases.

Organizers said the AI Alliance would use a working group structure as a mechanism for accelerating adoption of trusted AI by “rapid scaling of proven tools and approaches.” The working group structure would resemble open source technology efforts, with organizations designating a point person to establish each group’s working agenda.

That structure would permit the type of give-and-take interaction used by the open source community to promote technology innovation across industries.

The Forum’s emphasis on ethical AI is part of a larger Industry 4.0 effort being promoted as a way to help reignite global economic growth. In survey results released last week, 60% of executives polled by the WEF said they believe AI will have a larger impact of the global economy than the internet.

“We’re at the beginning of AI actually being able to reach its full potential,” Accenture CEO Julie Sweet told a WEF panel last week. “It’s actually pervasive [and] the potential of AI is so great. But AI isn’t a destination, it’s about how you use it.”

Moreover, Sweet added, “You can’t have AI unless you have good data. At the end of the day, you actually need thoughtful use cases and experiences around that.”

Meanwhile, ethical concerns are spreading to related technologies such as quantum computing. A group of concerned developers this week posted a "call to action" video on YouTube outlining the promise and pitfalls or quantum technology.

--Editor's Note: This story has been updated.

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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