Artificial intelligence-based decisions need to be ethically underpinned – Sanjeewaka Kulathunga

As hominids evolved into Homo sapiens around 200,000 years ago, intelligence, moral values, ethics and norms have been the key pillars upon which our species distinguished itself from others in the evolutionary process.

With the beginning of civilisation being established in river valleys, these social pillars have been fundamental to society’s cohesiveness – and they have continuously evolved through eras and epochs, until the current age of AI.

Autonomous vehicles and flying cars designed with the help of artificial intelligence will soon be dominating the highways. It’s expected that AI driven technologies will save lives on the roads by reducing fatal accidents due to human error.

Nevertheless, accidents will also be an inevitable phenomenon. But what’s of concern are occasions when the AI driving mode of a vehicle has to make a difficult ethical decision during a collision: should it save the single owner of its car or five pedestrians on the street; or prioritise saving older people or young people?

Even on the threshold of an AI revolution, ethical decision making has been a dilemma similar to what it was at the beginning of human civilisation.

Rather than following a set of simple rules and regulations from the past, leaders and managers in the corporate world are now attempting to be more ethical, and focussing on creating the best possible value for society.

Ethical decision making that’s blended with corporate pragmatism has improved with economic globalisation more recently, spurred by advanced information and communication technologies.

Corporate leaders need to set a vision to create an ethical value framework in the organisational environment by encouraging their colleagues to implement ethical behaviour practically.

With the development of AI enabled products and services, the gap between how these are manufactured and how they should be practically operated from an ethical perspective has been widening.

Until the regulatory authorities catch up with artificial intelligence technologies, AI-based companies are expected to modify their decisions on how to use their applications and products ethically.

Though AI is considered a more effective predictor than humans, we are still hesitant to hand over control due to ethical leadership implications. Further, in companies where artificial intelligence outperforms people, business leaders are concerned about the operative conditions of AI and ponder when humans must override machine power.

It’s obvious that artificial intelligence is serving specific areas of expertise and automation better than human beings can. Its speedy learning competencies and vast capacity under the right conditions have made it more dominant over human learning potential.

Of late, AI has become a source of capital that is able to learn automatically without any form of labour.

However, corporate leadership must ensure the flow of information to ethical decision making and use its outcomes as learning feedback to the central decision-making system. Managing the learning loop of artificial intelligence will be more ethically valuable than ever before in the modern business world.

Contemporary data driven markets are generating immense benefits for corporate entities to grow in their industries. The progress of AI driven data markets shouldn’t be restricted due to irrational fears or unnecessary regulations. However, it’s essential to address ethical issues and challenges facing the authenticity of artificial intelligence driven data and system failures.

A meaningful future for the AI driven business world requires corporate leadership to create ethical architecture for organisations as their prime responsibility, and ensure a better balance between people, profit and planet. This is a challenging socioeconomic phenomenon where corporate leaders must be more conscious of implementing an ethically viable social contract between the community, and AI-based products and services, in every market.

Given an increase in AI-based technologies, corporate leaders are facing novel forms of ethical challenges such as what algorithms are needed to manufacture automotive self-driving vehicles or how to allocate scarce resources to produce necessary medical products.

Until proper governance mechanisms are created to manage artificial intelligence driven markets, it’s unreasonable to expect the implementation of transparent ethical businesses practices.

Science and technology alone will not resolve such ethical dilemmas; they require the input of conscientious leaders. The mindset of wise decision makers can develop better social marketing conditions for the benefit of future generations.