AI ethics is all well and good – but pretty much impossible

ethics AI
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Ethics committees are like innovation committees. They are doomed to failure because they are committees, however committed and passionate the members are. As someone once said, “a committee is the work of one person being carried out by many”.

The problem is, when it comes to something as potentially game changing (and dangerous) as AI, you need committees because one man cannot act in the interests of everyone who represents ‘good’.

The other problem is that bad people tend not to worry about committees. They tend to get on with things and attempt world domination (regional variations are available). Hannibal did not set up an ethics committee when he decided to take on Rome by crossing the Alps with elephants.

Hackers do not care about ethics, ruthless businessmen do not care about ethics and some countries or states do not care about them either.

The vast majority of humanity cares about surviving, thriving and generally getting ahead. And if AI can help it do that, then bring it on.

This, of course, does not mean we shouldn’t try and build a map and a model and a plan for how AI should grow and help us become more efficient and healthy, wealthy and wise.

History sadly teaches us that if we invent something game changing, something that can give us an edge, then our instinct is to use it to conquer worlds, become wealthy and ‘happy’.

We are a competitive race. We are the only creature on the planet that is constantly trying to optimise ourselves (although the gentle snoring coming from the Publisher’s living room on a Sunday afternoon might say otherwise).

The point is that it will be hard, if not impossible, to prescribe how, where and when AI can be used.

The other point is that AI – like many technologies before it – can used for good, for progress.

But they can also be used for competitive edge and world domination.

This does mean that we should not set up committees and models and rules because that allows us to react quickly when someone crosses the line or breaks a rule.

The question is: can we react fast enough and with enough force to stop something really bad happening – in milliseconds.

We live in disruptive times.

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