Autonomous and intelligent systems (A/IS) have witnessed unprecedented progress over the last few decades, in an age dominated by Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, and Machine Learning. It touches almost every sphere of our daily lives via automation, process optimization, and efficient resource usage, enabling informed planning and efficient decision making. Notwithstanding the positives, the prevalence of such technology, also raises serious concerns about its effect on us as individuals and society as a whole. There have been increasing apprehensions being voiced from various forums and panels, by academics and business leaders alike, on the potential harm to privacy, loss of skills, adverse socio-economic impacts, discrimination, and lack of trustworthiness.
Ethically Aligned Design (EAD) – First Edition, published under the IEEE Global Initiative on Ethics of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems (The IEEE Global Initiative), is an attempt to go beyond the generic “pros & cons” evaluation of such systems. It is a confluence of thoughts, from a large community of global experts across different fields and industries, into a set of high-level ethical principles, identification of critical challenges, and proposition of actionable recommendations. The underlying belief is that the true potential of these technologies can only be realised if they are in sync with society’s values and ethics, in terms of fairness, sustainability, freedom, democracy, and trustworthiness. It is a combination of what our community can hope to achieve and what every individual or group involved with or affected by these technologies, can do to progress in the right direction.
EAD was developed through an open, collaborative, and consensus-building initiative, among industry leaders, World Economic Forum executives, academics, lawyers, data scientists, and policy-makers, with a common aim to develop focused guidance for standards, certification, regulation or legislation in development and application of A/IS in alignment with societal well-being. It offered a platform for idea exchange via extensive research, scientific analysis, high-level principles, and actionable recommendations, enabling refinement in thoughts on rapidly changing technologies in an efficient, constructive environment.
Chandramauli has been a part of two specific committees:
- A/IS for Sustainable Development: The value of A/IS is closely associated with the generation of insights, which could drive a positive socio-economic impact for both high and low-income societies, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals of United Nations Agenda for Sustainable Development (2015). The ethical objective of the committee is that A/IS must be utilized in the benefit of humanity, accountability and sustainability.
- Law: The innovation and impact of A/IS in our everyday lives is relatively new and complex. Moreover, the interplay between the law and such technology can vary based on the legal and societal structures. While challenges do exist, in terms of uncertainty and associated risks, it is crucial to recognize that law can play an extremely critical role in ensuring A/IS are aligned with principles of ethics and well-being. The key objective is, therefore, to identify and define legal guidelines that can help direct this process, leading to societal development, fairness, and equality.
Currently, the work has inspired the creation of fourteen IEEE Standardization Projects, A/IS Ethics Courses, a Certification Program, and multiple action-based programs now in development. EAD, had also motivated collaborations on A/IS governance and policy-design with the United Nations, the European Commission, and other governmental/civil-society organizations. The “Draft Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy AI” of the European Commission’s High-Level Expert Group on AI mentioned EAD as a reference. Beyond the policy-making arena, the vast body of work and knowledge-base of The IEEE Global Initiative has also influenced the development of industry-related resources like the IBM Watson.
Download the full report
The IEEE Global Initiative on Ethics of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems. Ethically Aligned Design: A Vision for Prioritizing Human Well-being with Autonomous and Intelligent Systems, First Edition. IEEE, 2019.