Monday, July 3, 2023

IEEE AI Ethics and Governance Workshop in Canberra Hosted by the Australian Computer Society

Ruth Lewis, workshop facilitator
Greeting from the Australian Computer Society Canberra office, where I am taking part in an IEEE AI Ethics and Governance Workshop. Over the next few days we will be looking at ethics and technological development. Obviously AI is going feature prominently in this. Last week I attended a seminar on weaponizing Chat GPT with defence & AI experts from around the world. This makes me think I need to produce a new hypothetical on the ethics of AI in warfare. 

IEEE have produced the 294 page "ETHICALLY ALIGNED DESIGN" (2019), and a suite of standards: 

  1. 7000-2021 - IEEE Standard Model Process for Addressing Ethical Concerns during System Design
  2. 7001-2021 - IEEE Standard for Transparency of Autonomous Systems
  3. 7002-2022 - IEEE Standard for Data Privacy Process
  4. 7005-2021 - IEEE Standard for Transparent Employer Data Governance
  5. 7010-2020 - IEEE Recommended Practice for Assessing the Impact of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems on Human Well-Being
IEEE has been producing ethics standards for many years, but these do not appear to have had much effect on practice. The current public, government and industry interest in AI, and Generative AI (such as Chat GPT) is a good opportunity for IEEE to kindle interest in ethics. If there is an area needing consideration of ethics is AI.

An interesting issues, I suggest, is how standard largely developed by western couturiers will be seen in China, and Asia. In standards development the Golden Rule applies: "Those who have the gold make the rules". As China's economy expands, they will have more influence over global standards. 

While considerations of ethics in computing and engineering development is useful, it has its limitations. As an example, application of IEEE standards would not have stopped the RoboDebt system, as those in leadership positions had an different ethical framework. This held that persecution of disadvantaged citizens was acceptable, provided it boosted the government's ratings with its supporters. This approach was described as Authorized System Harassment in the UK dystopian TV series "1990" ("Ordeal by Small Brown Envelope", 1978), and the possibility of it resulting in suicide was explored. RoboDebt was not ended because it was clearly abhorrent to the ethical standards of most Australians, but because it was found to be technically illegal.

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