How IBM is preparing for a new era of A.I. ethics
For the past six years, Francesca Rossi has led the development of an ethical framework for IBM’s artificial intelligence technology—but she doesn’t like to use the term “ethical A.I.” Sitting at a well-appointed desk in her home office in Mount Kisco, N.Y., a pink orchid bowing over her shoulder, the research scientist explains the term’s limitations.
“Technology is not ethical or unethical, it’s the whole ecosystem around it,” she says, referring to the ethics guiding its multiple stakeholders, from researchers and developers to economists, policymakers, and consumers. “The goal is obvious—to take the best out of A.I., to make it as beneficial as possible, and to avoid the negative impacts.”
As companies around the world expand their use of A.I.—more than half of companies have accelerated their A.I. adoption plans—they are taking a careful look at ethics and responsible innovation. And global spending on A.I. systems is only expected to increase from $85.3 billion in 2021 to over $204 billion in 2025, according to market research firm IDC.
When Rossi joined IBM in 2015 as its A.I. ethics global leader, she gathered 40 colleagues to start the process, eventually establishing an internal A.I. board to guide the ethical development and deployment of A.I. systems and then training IBM’s more than 345,000 employees working in over 175 countries in “ethics by design,” a methodology governed by several principles and values.