Think differently

Getting it right with robots

Björn Fasterling , Professor

What are the unsuspected dangers of AI? How can we answer the ethical questions that arise from it? Björn Fasterling, Head of Faculty Law, Economics, and member of the LegalEDHEC Research Centre deciphers the subject...

Reading time :
12 Jul 2019

As Artificial Intelligence becomes an increasingly present –and powerful– element of our lives, new ethical issues are emerging that pose a host of fresh challenges for society. Do we have the right tools to address them?

Getting it right with robots

Killer robots. Autonomous weapons. Destruction of democratic institutions. Loss of human control…the frantic alarms regarding the dangers posed  by Artificial Intelligence (AI) continue to sound. Proof positive that a new robot code of business ethics is urgently needed to safeguard humanity?

Not so fast, according to Björn Fasterling, Head of Faculty Law, Economics, and member of the LegalEDHEC Research Centre.

“We don’t really need a whole new set of ethics. But, we do need to adapt our existing ethics to address a business environment where AI is increasingly ubiquitous” 

While AI’s strong impact on business models, people management and work processes is becoming increasingly evident, so too is the potential for unforeseen dangers that may be unleashed. As examples, Björn Fasterling cites algorithms that could learn and amplify discrimination patterns. AI-powered nudging could risk undermining moral autonomy and also exacerbate social inequalities by matching the most lucrative transaction opportunities to those who are already better off while impeding others from leaving a difficult past behind. Yes, AI may boost the creation of wealth but it also may further concentrate it, posing additional strains on democratic society.

"For instance, most people probably want to do the right thing but AI may cause them to underestimate the far-reaching and possibly harmful consequences of their actions. We should ensure that businesses enable detection of harmful impacts of seemingly innocuous activities through ongoing due diligence."

An ethical credo for AI

Beyond designing business models that contribute positively to society and avoid harmful actions, individuals must recognize that they need to rely on others to help identify ethical issues. 

“Being aware of AI hazards, sharing knowledge and collectively addressing solutions should be part of entrepreneurial responsibility.”

He finds today’s digitally immersed students already more sensitive to the ethical challenges of AI than most people working in companies. What’s needed is to help them to integrate this awareness into business decisions and good reflexes by providing them with the skills to make sound judgments. 

For Björn Fasterling, the list of ethical principles and practices on AI to convey to future entrepreneurs is long and growing. The most important, however, may be the simple statement from the Russell–Einstein Manifesto of 1955, warning of the dangers of nuclear weapons: 

“Remember  your humanity  and forget  the rest.”

Extract from Otherwise Magazine (#7 issue)

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