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New report calls ethical guidelines for AI

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A new report looking at the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) says businesses need to have a code of ethics around what AI programmes can and can’t do.

“Ideally these should be shared with customers so they can make informed choices about who they are doing business with,” says the Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ) report. 

The report, entitled Machines can learn but what will we teach them? also suggests AI algorithms should be designed so they can be reviewed by a third party.

“In our world of fake news and privacy concerns, we are currently at an ethical crossroad where we need to determine the right direction for the development of machine learning and AI,” says Karen McWilliams, business reform leader, CA ANZ.

“By setting the right ethical framework now, we have an opportunity to design a new AI-enabled world, which could create a more inclusive global society and sustainable economy than exists today.”

The CA ANZ report looks at the ethical considerations around AI and machine learning, and possible implications on society, business, regulators, individuals, and the accounting profession.

Machine learning, the most technologically advanced subset of AI, has been described as having the potential to be humankind’s fourth industrial revolution.

Upsides and downsides
The report mentions the upsides and downsides of AI. The former includes more powerful learning and research tools, enabling, for example, medical breakthroughs and for businesses, the ability to predict customer behaviour.

The downsides include risks to privacy, data security and the potential for social reengineering. There is also the “strong possibility that vast numbers of the current workforce, and current graduates, may find themselves made obsolete because AI applications can do their work faster and more accurately”.

All this, the report says is happening while there are no “commonly agreed policies or accountability frameworks”.

The Australian Government has allocated $30 million in this year’s Federal Budget for AI development, including an ethical framework.

Earlier this year the AI Forum of New Zealand launched a paper Artificial Intelligence: Shaping a Future New Zealand which the forum describes as “the first steps towards building a cohesive national strategy to effectively address the mainstream changes AI will bring”.

“The absence of transparency and a full understanding of how [AI] algorithms work creates significant ethical issues,” the CA ANZ report says.

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