A New Frontier: Ethics, Artificial Intelligence and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)

A New Frontier: Ethics, Artificial Intelligence and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) - Digital

Artificial intelligence is increasingly part of our daily lives. Although often framed through its dystopic extremes, artificial intelligence is mostly deployed in more subtle ways. For instance, to improve health care, urban planning, and government services but also in more contentious areas like judicial sentencing, and predictive policing. ARTICLE 19 is closely following the developments in this field, and recently published a position paper on algorithms and automated decision-making in the context of crime prevention. We are also following the work done at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) in this field.

The IEEE is a professional association organisation that develops many of the international standards that drive modern telecommunication, information technologies, and various ICT hardware. It develops standards for robotics, smart cities, artificial intelligence, and automated systems. This technology will define our ‘connected future’, including the extent to which these standards will enable human rights like freedom of expression, privacy and access to information.

To address the ethical dimensions of their work the IEEE launched the ‘IEEE Global Initiative for Ethical Considerations in Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems’ in April 2016. The initiative aims to identify needs and build consensus for standards, certifications, and codes of conduct regarding the ethical implementation of intelligent technologies. It aims to achieve three specific goals: draft a document discussing how Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems (AI/AS) intersect with ethical concerns, educate technologists about the societal impact of the technology they build, and make recommendations for the development of technical standards based on the ethical concerns identified.

ARTICLE 19 has been closely involved in the work, co-chairing the working group on ‘Methodologies to Guide Ethical Research and Design’, as well as participating in the working group on ‘General Principles’, and ‘Policy Making for Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems (AIS)’. We have also been actively participating in the technical standard P7000 group, which is developing a model process for addressing ethical concerns during system design. Throughout this process, ARTICLE 19 focuses on ensuring that strong ethical frameworks are paired with strong legal frameworks, based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

On 13 December 2016, the Global Initiative launched its first document entitled: ‘Ethically Aligned Design: A Vision for Prioritizing Human Wellbeing with Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems’, based on a series of meetings, and the work done by the various working groups. This work is published as a ‘Request for Input’: soliciting feedback on this first version for the draft, which will be incorporated into the second draft. The second draft will be a formal IEEE position paper on the question of ethics and IEEE technology.

ARTICLE 19 welcomes the approach taken by the IEEE. Going forward we hope the IEEE will honour their dedication to the multi-stakeholder approach. We also call upon the IEEE to expand its focus on ethics to include human rights, and consider doing a human rights impact assessment of its ongoing work, based on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, to get a better understanding of the IEEE’s impact on human rights.