Ethically Aligned Design

January 13, 2017 | 06:00
Ethically Aligned Design: A Vision For Prioritizing
Wellbeing With Artificial Intelligence And
Autonomous Systems, Version 1. IEEE, 2016.
Last month I drew your attention here to “Economy of Attention”, that modern form of subjugation in which we immerse ourselves. I’m revisiting that topic, even though it is something that we would rather forget. It would be more comfortable to ignore the fact that, intoxicated with their power, companies use their best intelligence to bewitch us. To reassure and seduce us, they shower us with benefits, using the unprecedented resources that our programmable electronics puts at their disposal. Contrary to conventional wisdom, I don’t have the illusion that faced with this pressure, I can freely decide what I do or do not do in response to these irresistible stimuli.

If I risk boring you, it is because in the interim three pertinent facts have come to light. Of the first two, worryingly, one is personal, and not unusual for anyone with children around them: at a family gathering during the holidays I realized that if I left a tablet lying around, my grandson of 2-1/2 could infallibly locate the YouTube logo and launch it in the blink of an eye.

The second fact is professional, but no less striking, and concerns Alexa, the voice activated system from Amazon, which has passed almost unnoticed in Elektor’s columns. It stole the show at the Consumer Electronics Show 2017 with its omnipresence. Here is a quick account of it which is worth the detour.

The third fact, reassuringly, confirms that my worries are shared, and not just by anyone: the very professional IEEE has just published a document titled Ethically Aligned Design: A Vision for Prioritizing Human Wellbeing with Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems (AI/AS) to “encourage technologists to prioritize ethical considerations in the creation of autonomous and intelligent technologies.”

I would urge Elektor’s readers to have a look at this, because the document’s purpose is "To advance a public discussion of how these intelligent and autonomous technologies can be aligned to moral values and ethical principles that prioritize human wellbeing.”
 
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