Ethics as a competitive advantage in the booming artificial intelligence industry

Essay by Iva Todorova, Government and Regulatory Affairs Executive, IBM Bulgaria and AmChamBulgaria Board Member

We are in the foothills of an AI journey. On April 8 the EU issued in-depth guidelines on developing and implementing trustworthy Artificial Intelligence. The guidelines identify fundamental requirements for AI in Europe and set a global standard for efforts to advance AI that is Ethical and Responsible. “It’s like putting the foundations in before you build a house. Now is the time to do it,” said Liam Benham, Vice President, Government and Regulatory Affairs, in Europe. The guidelines reflect many of IBM’s principles and practices around AI. We played an active role in shaping the guidelines through the nomination and participation of Francesca Rossi, IBM’s AI Ethics Global Leader, selected by the European Commission as part of the high-level group that developed the guidelines.

For IBM, AI Ethics are not a separate business objective bolted on after an AI system has been deployed. We have established Trust & Transparency Principles that underpin our work around AI based on the moral paradigm that the purpose of AI is to augment human intelligence, our clients’ data is their own and AI systems must be transparent and explainable. It is only by embedding ethical principles into AI applications and processes we can build systems that people trust and if aiming to achieve full AI potential companies should earn Trust by being Responsible.

It is important to translate principles into practice. For example, IBM has launched “Everyday Ethics for Artificial Intelligence” a guide, first-of-its-kind resource for AI designers and developers, articulating best practices culled from experts in fields such as AI, engineering, ethics, and philosophy. It describes five ethical principles that AI developers must consider throughout the design process. Another example is the AI Fairness 360, AI bias detection software  that IBM has released into the open source community, empowering companies to take control of their systems.

I believe that building trustworthy AI is not only the right thing to do, it can also give a competitive edge. Consider, for example, a recent study by IBM’s Institute of Business Value that found that 82% of enterprises are now at least considering AI adoption but 55% have security and privacy concerns about use of data. In this case, implementing EU guidelines can reassure people about how a company is handling and using their data for AI.

Other aspect of IBM’s work on Trusted AI with strong societal effect includes how we address the massive shift in jobs that will all be changed by AI. This means how we need to build a global workforce that’s equipped with a new generation of skills, based on inclusion.

It’s time for a new partnership between business, government and the labor force. Making the era of AI an era of broad economic prosperity means forging new partnerships to modernize education, provide more re – skilling opportunities for the workforce.

That is why I am really proud to be part of a company that undertake every leadership step to promote technology that brings growth and confront inequalities based on common and shared values.

Our company representatives encourage national governments in the EU to express their support for these guidelines and align with them in their national AI strategies. In addition, governments should lead by example and use these guidelines for the use of AI in their own services.

The best AI policy framework should be based on open and constructive dialogue with a broad community – from those at the front line of AI research to industry to those representing more vulnerable sectors of society throughout our region we have been engaged in supporting governmental efforts and activities to build national positions and strategies for Trustworthy AI:

In Hungary, IBM joined the Hungarian Artificial intelligence Coalition. The coalition aims to define a common strategy and development direction for AI and to create a framework for cooperation to bring Hungary in the field of AI to the forefront of Europe.

In Croatia, IBM worked together with American Chamber of Commerce to develop a position paper „State of Play of Digitization in Croatia and Development of AI“ aimed at providing recommendations for developing AI that will benefit the broader Croatian society and economy.

In Bulgaria, in cooperation with American Chamber of Commerce, we have initiated the Digital Sustainability Forum. It aims to promote the debate on AI with government, academia and business stakeholders by presenting policy recommendations on the ethical aspects of using AI and its role in society.

We encourage the political leadership across Europe to promote AI policy that is aligned, not fragmented, across different countries as well as policy measures that enable and encourage both investment in AI and the right education and skills to be ready for this new AI era.