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Unveiling the dark side of AI

The current AI race has created numerous ethical issues that are putting customer safety, trust and the long-term sustainability of the sector at risk, writes Sherin Mathew, founder and CEO of AI Tech UK and Smart Ethics.

In a bid to be the best, many industry leaders are forgetting that a baseline of integrated standards is essential when mitigating the risks and unintended consequences of a new transformation, especially one as complex as AI. From customer data breaches and privacy issues to the infringement of copyrights, the emergent issues surrounding AI are quickly mounting.

In my time as an AI ethicist, I have seen many large-scale companies disregard the possible long-term consequences of the current lack of regulations surrounding the artificial intelligence sector. With a wide range of risks that can be put onto unwitting customers, we as an industry need to unveil the impact of AI risk and leverage AI as a positive opportunity.

This is the perfect time for businesses to obtain an ethical advantage over competitors, as “Whenever you see darkness, there is extraordinary opportunity for the light to burn brighter.” — Bono.

The ethical issues surrounding AI

Artificial intelligence presents immeasurable potential to bring good to our society. With applications for medicine, education, economics, as well as many more, artificial intelligence has the ability to save workers time on tasks and facilitate financial growth. In my time working for multiple global Fortune 500 AI firms, I have seen the good artificial intelligence can do, but I’ve also seen the harm.

Over-selling, over-producing, over-consuming, and over fitting AI has a downstream impact on the key stakeholders – people and planet. If we as an industry want to expand our horizons and offer these benefits to future generations, internationally structured regulation needs to be put into place. The question is should we wait for regulation to tell us that we should put the seat belt on, helmet on and drive safely all the time?

A key concern surrounding the current AI industry is that many within the space don’t look at the unintended consequences and impact their solutions can have in the long-term. The challenge lies in the fact that once a solution is introduced to the market, its trajectory and development often becomes uncontrollable. This opens the door for unanticipated application of the innovative technology in areas far removed from its original purpose. Thereby enabling its possible exploitation by anyone with access. Just look at database of litigation involving Artificial Intelligence.

Large-scale companies will often overlook the holistic risk and associated disruption to the existing ecosystem, knowledge capital, copyrights, societal balance, and underlying dependent systems that our basis of knowledge relies on. This forgetfulness could cause displacement of what we consider personal and public knowledge to commercial AI at a rapid pace.

The uncontrolled progression of AI and it’s advancement in the long-term raises the potential for an intelligence offset that remains beyond our human comprehension.

The long-term impact on AI businesses

Looking from an industry perspective, the absence of regulation in AI will undoubtedly jeopardise the sector’s current unsustainable expansion in the near
future. The inherent unpredictability of AI solutions makes it exceedingly challenging to foresee complications that could disrupt individual business’s streamlined operations. This problem has already been seen in Generative AI platforms, where the industry’s limited grasp of ethical compliance standards has resulted in legal disputes, customer compensation, and the continuous overhaul of even the most cutting-edge platforms.

While the industry is beginning to acknowledge the need for ethics, their individualised approach is causing internal chaos and wastage as they struggle to keep up with emerging technology. Cross-industry recognition is needed before these volatile compliance requirements can be met and established on steadier ground.

Long-term impact on AI users

The perils posed by AI risks take on added significance when considering our customers. With numerous brands making headlines for questionable conduct, levels of mistrust and communication breakdowns are on the rise. Fuelled by breaches in data and intellectual privacy, even employees who would never traditionally be impacted by such advancements are now facing the unregulated hazards of AI.

From actors relinquishing control over their voices for usage, to medical professionals being substituted by chatbots, the sense of security that traditional employment used to provide is no longer guaranteed for anyone in the workforce.

Overall, the diminishing trust in the industry will limit future innovation. Once this faith in AI’s abilities is lost it will be incredibly difficult to claw back, and when it is gone, we might be at the risk losing the industry with it.

Overcoming the danger

A big bang approach to acquire a large market share is a very capitalistic and individualistic approach to the problem, as AI impacts the community at scale which means we need to take a very communitarian or socialist approach to ethics. Like the climate crisis, which cries out for a global call to take remediation action, unregulated technology will show its risks and impacts in the near future.

Ethical considerations for digital transformation should be proactive, progressive, and people centric. The ultimate stakeholder in AI is its users, so why aren’t we protecting them? Ethical business can bring long-term returns, trust from customers and alignment to global requirements. So be let’s be smart with ethics.

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