Are We Having An Ethical Crisis in Computing?

With the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally change our lives. Much of that is thanks to disruptive innovations in the computing field, in particular AI. At the same time, according to world-renowned Professor Moshe Y. Vardi of Rice University, a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery and the American Mathematical Society, the field seems to face a public image crisis, viewed by many as the crisis of trust.

Indeed, strong concerns about ethics in computing came from the media and press. Many colleges are also hurriedly integrating ethics into their computing curricula. The narrative is that what ails tech today is a deficit of ethics, and the remedy, therefore, is an injection of ethics.

However, is this crisis real, and is how we are responding today the right solution? Professor Vardi raised these questions in an interesting op-ed he penned in last month’s publication of the ACM Communications. He compared today’s computing to the early 20th century’s automobile manufacturing. The solution to automobile crashes is not ethics training for drivers, but public policy, which makes transportation safety a public priority. Similarly, he argues that the current crisis with Computing is not an ethics crisis; it is a public policy crisis, and we need proper policies!

(See Professor Vardi’s full article HERE.)

This goes along well with the vision and goal of AI World Society (AIWS). AIWS was founded by the Michael Dukakis Institute for Innovation and Leadership indeed for the purpose of promoting ethical norms and practices in the development and use of AI. We recognized the importance of ethics guidelines at the policy level and recently published a comprehensive report about AI Ethics; link below:

https://bostonglobalforum.org/2018/12/aiws-report-about-ai-ethics/