With great AI power comes great ethical responsibility | NTT DATA

Wed, 12 May 2021

With great AI power comes great ethical responsibility

Multiple strategy firms agree that among all the different new disruptive technologies that have emerged in the past few years, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is possibly the one that will have the biggest impact on society. In fact, Gartner recently named AI engineering as one of the top technology trends for 2021.

Of course, having access to larger volumes of data has provided AI with greater power. The changes it may drive will generate greater growth opportunities, but also challenges to comply with data privacy and social equality laws and regulations.

According to the European Parliamentary Research Service ‘rapid developments in artificial intelligence and machine learning carry huge potential benefits. However, it is necessary to explore the full ethical, social and legal aspects of AI systems if we are to avoid unintended, negative consequences and risks arising from the implementation of AI in society’. Thus, ethics must be at the core of all AI projects and explorations.

How AI will change the way we live

Undoubtedly, AI solutions have the ability to change the way we perform all sorts of tasks. It provides us with new abilities that were impossible to imagine before. For example, NTT DATA have recently developed AI Taxi, a technology for optimising traffic and forecasting demand for taxis in real time. By using multiple inputs such as mobile, weather and public transport data, the system is able to optimise the supply of unoccupied taxis by predicting demand ahead of time. The first results speak for themselves: taxis equipped with this forecasting system increased “difference of sales” by 49%.

There are multiple examples where AI help us to be more efficient. For instance, according to Learn Hub, in healthcare, AI virtual assistants are decreasing unnecessary hospital visits and thus helping doctors and nurses free up 17% and 20% of their schedules respectively. This is possible by enhancing the patient digital experience through access to information on recurrent health consultations and streamlining how digital medical records are kept.

AI goes hand in hand with exciting benefits for society. However, we can’t forget that the main star of the show and the fuel of these models, is the data. All these solutions are feasible only if you have access and can manage big volumes of information. Therefore, it is the data feeding these models that becomes the real asset to be managed. Having access to big volumes of modelled and governed data provides endless opportunities. However, with great power comes great responsibility.

What is the risk and what can go wrong if we do nothing about it?

Humans have adapted to changes for thousands of years, mainly through collaboration. The distinctive feature of AI is the pace of this change. Every single day, new articles are published about new exciting AI developments. Technology change is happening faster than most of the changes we have faced and adapted to before. Is this something entirely positive? It depends. These larger volumes of data usually contain sensitive information, so developing new AI systems without following a clear data ethics framework will lead people to mistrust it and think about it as a threat rather than a potential tool to help them be more efficient. It is important that the development of these AI models is bound to a defined and shared data ethic framework, based on society and individual well-being principles.

From a social perspective, there is a risk of developing AI models that do not foster diversity and equality, and even discriminate against certain groups. An example of AI bias was the COMPAS (Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions) algorithm used in US court systems to predict the likelihood that a defendant would become a repeat offender. Due to the data source, model and algorithm used, the model predicted twice as many false positives for reoffending for black offenders (45%) than white offenders (23%).

To take a different scenario, a Cornell University study found that Google’s online advertising system showed high-income jobs to men much more often than to women.

These are real-life examples of biased Artificial Intelligence that must serve as lessons learned to avoid falling in similar traps. AI should be a tool to promote diversity and inclusion, comply with the law and contribute to a fairer society.

From an individual perspective, there are risks linked to Data Privacy. Along with the exponential growth in the volume of data, there has also been a parallel increase in data variety and complexity. Due to the sheer volume of data that businesses handle and the multiple privacy risks that can arise, the regulatory landscape has changed significantly in the last year. Misusing private data is a clear threat for individuals that could affect both the economy and personal their reputation. Ultimately, any AI development should have a human-centric approach, and every output should aim to provide benefits for the individual in gratitude for sharing their information.

NTT DATA’s role in this change

Companies like NTT DATA will have a critical role to play when it comes to defining new social solutions highly impacted by Artificial Intelligence.

At NTT DATA we are conscious of the impact AI has and will have on society and people’s activities and decisions. Following our group vision of being a Trusted Global Innovator, we will use leading-edge technology to help solve social problems, define the frameworks and support policy definition where required. We continually develop our recognition as a trusted partner to our clients and society as a whole. Our NTT DATA Group’s AI Guidelines are critical to this:

  1. Realising well-being and sustainability of Society – making sure these solutions have a positive impact in society and follow sustainability guidelines.
  2. Co-Creating new values by AI – promoting innovation by interacting and co-creating with AI stakeholders.
  3. Fair, Reliable and explainable AI – for users of AI to realise its fairness and trustworthiness.
  4. Data Protection – privacy and security are critical to NTT DATA in providing AI services. Our AI leverages the principles of security and design to protect personal information.
  5. Contribution to dissemination of Sound AI – working to support society on understanding AI to accelerate its acceptance and improve literacy of AI users.

Find out more about our NTT DATA Group’s AI guidelines, our Data and Intelligence services or directly contact Jorge Morate.


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