The study launched by the European Parliament last month builds on the AI-HLEG Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy AI and seeks to find alternatives that might help to move from AI ethics to regulation.
In our previous blogs and vlogs we have discussed the application of the Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy AI in several contexts and industries, like retail and real estate. However, there is a need for precision in practical terms. For this purpose, the European Parliament has just published a document where different alternatives are explored in order to develop specific policy and legislation for governing AI.
Important considerations about ethics
The European Parliament considers that there are some preliminary points about ethics that should be understood before moving forward with the analysis of further implications of ethics on AI:
- Ethics is not about checking boxes. It should be addressed through questions based on deliberation, critique and inquiry.
- Ethics should be understood as a continuous process where regular checks and updates become essential.
- AI should be conceived of as a social experiment that makes possible to understand its ethical constraints and the kinds of things that need to be learnt. This approach may facilitate the monitoring of social effects thus they can be used to improve the technology and its introduction into society.
- Moral dilemmas do not make possible to satisfy all ethical principles and value commitments at the same time, which means that sometimes there will not be a specific response to a problem, but a set of various options and alternatives which an associated ‘moral residue’ each instead.
- The goal of ethics is to provide strong enough rationale that an individual is compelled to act in a way they believe is the right/good way.
Key AI ethics insights
According to the study, there are six main elements of AI that should be addressed when it comes to an ethical implementation of algorithms and systems:
- Transparency. Policy makers need to deal with three aspects: the complexity of modern AI solutions, the intentional obfuscation by those who design them and the inexplicability regarding how a particular input results in a particular output.
- Bias and fairness. Training data is deemed essential in this context and there is a need for definition of ‘fair’ and ‘accurate’ concepts.
- Contextualization of the AI according to the society in which it has been created and clarification of the society’s role in its development.
- Accountability and responsibility.
- Re-design risk assessment to make them relevant.
- Ethical technology assessments (eTA). The eTA is a written document intended to capture the dialogue between ethicist and technologist and it comprises the list of ethical issues related to the AI application for the purpose of identifying all the possible ethical risks and drawing out the possible negative consequences of implementing the AI system.
Why is regulation necessary?
The European Parliament points out the following reasons that motivate the need for legislation:
- The criticality of ethical and human rights issues raised by AI development and deployment.
- The need to protect people (i.e. the principle of proportionality).
- The interest of the state (given that AI will be used in state-governed areas such as prisons, taxes, education, child welfare).
- The need for creating a level playing field (e.g. self-regulation is not enough).
- The need for the development of a common set of rules for all government and public administration stakeholders to uphold.
What are the policy options?
While ethics is about searching for broad answers to societal and environmental problems, regulation can codify and enforce ethically desirable behaviour.
The study proposes a number of policy options that may be adopted by European Parliamentary policy-makers:
- Mandatory Data Hygiene Certificate (DHB) for all AI system developers in order to be eligible to sell their solutions to government institutions and public administration bodies. This certificate would not require insight into the proprietary aspects of the AI system and it would not require organisations to share their data sets competing organisations.
- Mandatory ethical technology assessment (eTA) prior to deployment of the AI system to be conducted by all public and government organisations using AI systems.
- Mandatory and clear definition of the goals of using AI when it comes to public administration institutions and government bodies. The aim is avoiding the deployment of AI in society in the hope of learning an unknown ‘something’. Instead, it is proposed that there must be a specific and explicit ‘something’ to be learned.
- Mandatory accountability report to be produced by all organisations deploying AI systems meant as a response to the ethical and human rights issues that were identified in the eTA.
Practical considerations about eTA reports
The seven key requirements of the Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy AI may be used by organisations to structure an eTA, namely:
- Human agency and oversight.
- Technical robustness and safety.
- Privacy and data governance.
- Diversity, non-discrimination and fairness.
- Societal and environmental well-being.
Otherwise the European Parliament also suggests to use the following nine criteria: (1) Dissemination and use of information; (2) Control, influence and power; (3) Impact on social contact patterns; (4) Privacy; (5) Sustainability; (6) Human reproduction; (7) Gender, minorities and justice; (8) International relations and (9) Impact on human values.
The eTA should be concrete though, thus it may be extended in order to cover: (a) the specific context in which the AI will be used; (b) the AI methodology used; (c) the stakeholders involved and (d) an account of ethical values and human rights in need of attention.
Who is going to make eTA reports?
The tasks in the eTA log require experience in identifying ethical issues and placing them within a conceptual framework for analysis. For this reason, the European Parliament highlights the likelihood of a future role for ethics and for ethicists in the regulation process engaged in organisations around AI.
Will SMEs be able to afford this?
In order to create a level playing field across SMEs, the European Parliament plans to provide an adequate margin of three years and offer small and medium companies EU funding to assist them with report completion as well as with the necessary capacity-building measures. This model parallels the incremental process for companies to comply with the GDPR.