Entrepreneurial Ethics: The AI Problem
Today’s technology would make our ancestors shocked and stunned. Human beings from 100 years ago wouldn’t believe that the people of today can send digital messages to anyone from anywhere in the world, video chat in real time or create music without using a single physical instrument, but technology has allowed us to do all of those things. It has helped us move in new and positive directions, and technology only continues to advance.
And with those advancements and positives come some drawbacks. Take artificial intelligence, for example. In essence, artificial intelligence is simply software with intelligent to perform a variety of tasks that are normally handled by a human being. It’s a technology that has gone on to help millions of people in their daily lives with a variety of tasks, both simple and complicated. But, it also comes with a host of problems, most of them ethical.
As an entrepreneur, it’s always good to be ahead of the curve, or at least up to date with industry trends, and AI is making its presence felt in almost every single industry imaginable. So, entrepreneurs should be aware of these ethical dilemmas associated with AI if they want to run their business as smoothly and successfully as possible.
Yes, it might sound ridiculous to think that a computer software would discriminate, but AI is created by humans, and there can be unintentional discrimination within these programs. Take, for example, an artificial intelligence program that was designed to check and verify passport applications. Richard Lee, a man of Asian descent, was simply attempting to renew his passport, and the AI in charge of the process denied him because his eyes were closed. His eyes were not closed; this AI denied Mr. Lee because it assumed that his eyes were closed, and this could certainly be considered a form of discrimination against people of Asian descent. This is exactly the type of situation that investors want to stay away from. If you’re investing in AI for your startup, you must be aware of this kind of issue.
Again, technology has improved our lives for the better, and AI is no different. A great example of useful AI is in the smartphone in your pocket. Google Assistant and Siri are AI assistants designed specifically to use machine learning to offer helpful suggestions to make your life easier. For example, if you text a friend about seeing a movie, your phone might suggest movie times or locations nearby without your express consent. While you might appreciate that your phone helped to cut out an extra step of having to find those things yourself, some people don’t like that the AI needs to read your messages in order to do so. In fact, your phone’s digital assistants read a great deal of your personal information in order to offer you the most personalized experience. Another example is constantly tracking your location in order to offer nearby restaurants or geotagging for social media posts. As an entrepreneur, you should absolutely know that you will deal with a fair amount of backlash should your AI take any pervasive measures to track anyone’s information. It comes with the territory. A way around this is to offer a method of turning off these tracking features or you can be upfront with customers. Transparency is key.
So what is an entrepreneur to do? These are two very common issues surrounding AI. Consumers want convenience, and AI can offer that, but there are some drawbacks. Before making the move to offer AI with your product or service, you need to consider each and every potential way that it can affect your business. Again, a good rule of thumb is to be as transparent as possible with your audience. If your business is founded on AI that requires personal information from its user base, then make that known. If it doesn’t, let your customers know that as well. It all comes down to ethics, and doing what is right by your customers.