Let’s Talk About AI Ethics; We’re On a Deadline

“The end goal of AI safety is to create beneficial intelligence, not undirected intelligence. What beneficial exactly entails is still an open question that largely exists in the domain of ethics.”

“We’re doing ethics on a deadline. If you survey the top 100 AI safety researchers or AI researches in the world, you’ll see that they give a probability distribution of the likelihood of human-level artificial intelligence with about a 50% probability at 2050.”

Lucas Perry, Future of Life Institute

The first industrial revolution, powered by steam, launched mass production. The second revolution added electricity to everything. The third added computing power. This new revolution, powered by artificial intelligence (AI), is adding cognitive capabilities to everything—and it’s a game changer.

Code that learns is both powerful and dangerous. It threatens the basic rules of markets and civic life. AI requires a new technical and civic infrastructure, a new way to conduct business, a new way to be together in community.

AI and enabling technologies like robotics and autonomous vehicles will change lives and livelihoods. Great benefits and unprecedented wealth will be created. But with that will come waves of disruption.

Compared to prior revolutions, this one is occurring at an exponential speed and while impacts are ubiquitous, control is concentrated. AI is a centralizing force. It plows through monster data sets in seconds aggregating benefits and wealth at an unprecedented speed.

It’s time to #AskAboutAI. It’s time for a civic conversation about the widespread implications about the new age we’re living in.

Creating Values-Aligned AI

“The project of creating value-aligned AI is perhaps one of the most important things we will ever do,” said the Future of Life Institute. It’s not just about useful intelligence but “the ends to which intelligence is aimed and the social/political context, rules, and policies in and through which this all happens.”

The Institute created a visual map of interdisciplinary issues to be addressed:

  • Validation: ensuring that the right system specification is provided for the core of the agent given stakeholders’ goals for the system.
  • Security: applying cybersecurity paradigms and techniques to AI-specific challenges.
  • Control: structural methods for operators to maintain control over advanced agents.
  • Foundations: foundational mathematical or philosophical problems that have bearing on multiple facets of safety
  • Verification: techniques that help prove a system was implemented correctly given a formal specification
  • Ethics: effort to understand what we ought to do and what counts as moral or good.
  • Governance: the norms and values held by society, which are structured through various formal and informal processes of decision-making to ensure accountability, stability, broad participation, and the rule of law.

The last two categories—ethics and governance—include questions every country and community will need to answer:

  • How we share income and protect displaced workers?
  • How we share the benefits of better health?
  • How we share access to powerful tools?
  • How we share transportation access?
  • How do we extend learning opportunities for all?
  • How and when do we augment our intelligence?
  • How and when do we edit genes?

What if public schools, working with our great universities, were hosts to community conversations about emerging opportunities and new challenges? What if school-based conversations laid the groundwork for an age of agile government where communities built agreements to address shifting conditions?

In Pittsburgh, the Montour School District launched America’s First Public School AI Program.

Justin Aglio, Director of Academic Achievement and Innovation, is working with MIT on an open source middle school AI Ethics Curriculum that will develop students’ ethical thinking abilities in the domain of artificial intelligence. In addition to learning computer science fundamentals, students will also learn how professions such as designers, social scientists, or philosophers contribute to the ethical design of AI systems.”

AI4ALL is creating a national network of university computer science departments connecting with high school students.

Why secondary schools as the hub of community conversations? Every secondary school student should be studying the implications of AI–it’s the most important change force that will shape their careers, social networks, and communities. And what better way to learn than to host conversations that explore what’s going on, what it means, and how to prepare (see a SXSWedu conversation using this framework)?

It’s time to #AskAboutAI. It’s time for secondary schools to become the hub of community conversations about the ethics and opportunities of our time. We’re on a deadline.   

For more see

This post was originally published on Forbes

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Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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1 Comment

Jennifer Akers

Very Informative Article Tom! Artificial intelligence refers to systems that can be designed to take cues from their environment and, based on those inputs, proceed to solve problems, assess risks, make predictions, and take actions. The fragility of current AI systems stands in stark contrast to human intelligence, which is robust and is capable of learning something in one context and swiftly applying it to another. AI is changing by automating the decision-making process, promising better qualitative results and improved efficiency. Certain tools like CSAT.AI, MaestroQA, and Salesforce Einstein have been adopted by organizations to implement AI in a better way.

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