Ethics And AI: The Key To Building Trust And Empowerment

AI is having an identity crisis. Or, more specifically, the concept of artificial intelligence is often wrongly portrayed as a thing, a noun or sentiment being – of which it is none. The danger of overhyping and objectifying AI is that we misunderstand the valuable opportunity that presents itself, fail to fully educate the global population and miss the chance to empower our daily lives.

As an engineer who spends every day researching the best ways to build this technology, I was pleased to see that a recent global survey from Sage confirms that most people are optimistic about AI. However, it concerns me that nearly half of all consumers surveyed admitted they have “no idea what AI is all about”, further evidence that we need to better educate, define and communicate the benefits. AI has the potential to improve quality of life, revolutionise productivity and positively impact the GDP of the country, but only if we embrace the opportunity responsibly, and with both hands.

AI is straight-forward, really; it is the creation of intelligent machines that work and react like humans. What is not straight-forward, however, is how AI is applied and the ethics with which we govern the algorithms that inform our decision-making every day. It is not an impending technology apocalypse; it is part of everyday life, although you might not know it yet. Viewing preferences on Netflix; suggested music on Spotify and the ability to monitor finances are all daily tasks assisted by AI. It will, without a doubt, act as a key driver of the next evolution of work by enhancing productivity, both in business and communities.

As adoption continues to grow, so does the need for education, to ensure that the technology is universally understood and accessible by all. No education is complete without also addressing the accountabilities associated with development and diversity in AI; which is why Sage developed the “Ethics of Code”, a set of core principles for the responsible design of AI for business.

There is a lot we still do not know about AI and its current application is somewhat juvenile in comparison to its infinite potential. One thing we do know is that the impact of AI is global. We are now sitting on the edge of the fourth industrial revolution and cannot take for granted the opportunity that presents itself. Whilst perceptions may vary across the tech sector, enterprise and consumer communities around the world, one thing is clear: AI’s impact on business and our daily lives is the tech topic of our time.

I welcome the House of Lords’ public inquiry into the field of AI and am pleased to be contributing to this important discussion by giving evidence this week. Businesses that do not embrace and adopt AI technology will get left behind; however we cannot underestimate the importance of ethics in this debate to ensure that we don’t miss-out on the real opportunity that AI can bring to all our lives.

Kriti Sharma is the vice president of artificial intelligence at Sage, a global integrated accounting, payroll and payment systems provider. She is the creator of Pegg, the world’s first virtual assistant managing everything from money to people, with users in 135 countries. On Tuesday 7th November, Kriti will deliver evidence on the state of the UK’s AI industry to The House of Lord’s AI Select Committee, Additionally, Sage’s “Optimism and Ethics: An AI Reality Check” report will be published alongside the evidence and available to download online.