A year ago, my family wouldn’t have known what I meant if I mentioned “AI” at the dinner table. But now, thanks to widespread access to consumer-facing generative artificial intelligence tools, discussions about AI and its impact are happening worldwide. Experts are creating resources for the masses, while policymakers are considering regulations to address potential risks. However, our technology policies struggle to keep up with the pace of innovation, and issues like misinformation and privacy violations persist.
Artificial intelligence has become a significant player in shaping knowledge, communication, and power. It will affect every one of us, and we all have a stake in determining how it is integrated into our lives. Ethics play a crucial role in this process. We, as individuals and as a global community, must make ethical decisions when building, feeding, and teaching AI. Learning is at the core of AI, so it’s essential to consider ethics in every stage of its lifecycle: building, input, output, and mitigating unintended consequences.
Unfortunately, ethical considerations are often overlooked, as evidenced by current legal hurdles faced by big tech companies. To ensure ethical practices, we need to ask questions at every stage of the AI lifecycle. We must identify the decision-makers, evaluate who the decisions benefit, consider the capital required, and understand the social, political, and economic impacts.
AI’s impact on labor and the economy is another area of concern. While generative AI tools can boost productivity, there is a fear of job displacement. Historically, new innovations have led to a natural lifecycle for industries, but upskilling and supporting workers affected by these changes is crucial. We must also consider the impact on creative industries, as copyright infringement and unauthorized use of artists’ work by AI models have become contentious issues.
Additionally, AI has environmental consequences. Training AI models requires significant energy, and the mining of earth minerals for computational infrastructure can lead to violence and environmental damage. We must include natural capital in our analysis of AI’s benefits and costs.
As technologists, it is our responsibility to embrace transparency and participate in ethical technology solutions. Asking the right questions, even if they challenge our own interests, is necessary for responsible AI development. Assessing and reducing carbon emissions generated by AI work is one example of taking proactive steps towards sustainability.
In conclusion, AI’s impact is far-reaching, and ethics should guide its development and deployment. By considering ethics in every stage of the AI lifecycle, addressing labor and economic impacts, and acknowledging environmental consequences, we can ensure a responsible and sustainable future for AI.