NTT Data Services has released a new study that suggests that many businesses are completely unaware of the ethical challenges facing AI developers. The problem gets worse at the higher rungs of the corporate ladder. Only 19 percent of executives believe that AI will discriminate against minority groups, while only 12 percent believe that it will drive unethical consumer data collection practices. The comparable numbers for general employees are 19 and 15 percent, respectively.
Those numbers are alarming in the wake of several high-profile news stories that have exposed the ethical shortcomings of many AI systems. For example, Facebook recently settled a $650 million class action lawsuit for its inappropriate data collection practices, while Clearview AI is staring down multiple lawsuits for harvesting photos without any form of consent. Meanwhile, facial recognition was responsible for the false arrest of a black man in Michigan, and even the NIST has found that racial bias is present in most facial recognition algorithms.
The fact that the vast majority of executives still have so much confidence in AI indicates that they have a poor understanding of the technologies in play, in some cases despite their own bad experiences with AI technologies. Twenty-five percent of executives had had an experience in which an AI system ignored a command, and around 20 percent had witnessed an AI interaction that hinted at some form of bias.
The blind faith in AI could create problems down the line given the eagerness to implement AI solutions. Most of the study respondents are hoping to accelerate their organization’s digital transformations, and believe that they are not moving fast enough in that regard. Nearly half (47 percent) are worried that they will lose ground to competitors if they fail to implement AI technology, while majorities predicted that AI would speed up innovation (61 percent) and boost efficiency (83 percent) and productivity (79 percent).
“AI presents one of the great leadership opportunities and challenges of our time,” said NTT DATA Chief Digital Officer Eric Clark. “Our study outlines how businesses can take full advantage of emerging technologies and accelerate transformation, while taking necessary precautions on the path to responsible and secure adoption of artificial intelligence.”
The survey was carried out in collaboration with Oxford Economics in early 2020. The results reflect the responses of 1,000 North American professionals from many different industries.
October 20, 2020 – by Eric Weiss