Is being (purely) data driven unethical in a world of AI?

Publish date:

The possibility of creating thinking machines raises many ethical issues. If machines running on AI are not conscious, will they behave ethically?

I was reading the book by Yuval Noah Harari, Homo Deus, and it concluded with the view that in the modern world of AI, intelligence has decoupled from consciousness. Consciousness in this respect refers a complex subject which comes down to the essence of being human and is subject to much debate in Psychology and Science (2,3) and goes beyond being aware and responsive to one’s surroundings. To have a conscience and being aware of right from wrong derives from being conscious.

We are creating machines that can process algorithms on vast amounts of data in a manner that for some scenarios can better human intelligence. The growing investment in AI and the exponential growth of compute power means that areas where machines can better humans is growing rapidly.

At the same time, we in our daily lives are being encouraged to be data driven. This connection ranges from the small nudges of advertising that drive our behaviour on line to our willingness to trust the data in all aspects of life, such as healthcare diagnosis. We no longer read maps rather we trust the data the machine is telling us.

This can be a good thing in many respects, but at the same time, there is an active debate around ‘fake news’ and other data sources trying to lead us astray. There is then a similar debate around the ethics of the AI that is controlling it.

What do we mean by ethical behaviour? Ethical is defined in terms of moral principles and moral principles in turn relate to descriptions such as honest, virtuous and good. Ultimately these relate to societal norms and as such to how one person’s behaviour impacts the others around them. To reflect on and be aware of how one impacts the feelings of those around them, I would argue that, you need to be conscious and be aware of your environment.

If machines running AI are not conscious, can they behave ethically? In our new world of unconscious data driven machines are we forgoing the opportunity to ensure ethical behaviour in the future.

As we all walk down the street being driven by the data and nudges on our phone does this mean we are opening ourselves as individuals and as a society to the erosion (and eventual destruction) of our ethics?

  1. Homo Deus: A Brief History of tomorrow, Yuval Noah Harari, Harvill Secker; First edition (8 Sept. 2016)
  2. https://www.researchgate.net/post/Psychology_indicates_consciousness_as_a_function_of_human_ability_to_assimilate_knowledge_First_there_is_awareness_when_conscience_enters_the_scene
  3. https://theconversation.com/why-being-conscious-is-a-barrier-to-understanding-consciousness-29675

Related Posts

AI

Do all roads lead to AI?

Pierre Adrien Hanania
Date icon June 11, 2019

Applying intelligent algorithms to make road traffic safer and smarter

AI

Filter to survive

Sicco Maathuis
Date icon June 10, 2019

AI and Algorithms help keep things manageable. They can filter very well. The next step is to...

AI

An end to out-of-stock conditions?

Rob Hand
Date icon May 30, 2019

Does anyone have any idea how much money has been spent by the consumer products industry and...

cookies.

By continuing to navigate on this website, you accept the use of cookies.

For more information and to change the setting of cookies on your computer, please read our Privacy Policy.

Close

Close cookie information