The technology industry recently suffered from a series of highly publicized scandals. Facebook and Google both found themselves under intense public scrutiny for different reasons. Both companies have taken steps to address their public relations and legal disasters. Google’s steps appear unique. The company is developing new ethical standards for its artificial intelligence programs. Google no longer limits ethical rules and requirements to humans. The tech giant wants all emerging AI programs to avoid becoming like HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Of course, increasing ethical behaviors and operations in AI tools begins with addressing how humans program the systems. Developers and researchers now have a mandate from on high: all research must follow a path of being “socially beneficial.”
Actually, this is only one of seven objectives the company hopes to achieve. All seven points connect to stressing safety, responsibility, and ethical behavior. It appears evident that Google doesn’t want any programs associated with its name to embarrass the company. Even more so, Google doesn’t want to see itself dragged into civil court over the actions of an artificial intelligence program.
To keep the artificial intelligence system on the proverbial honest path, Google will devise an external advisory board to act as a watchdog. The board’s name has already been chosen: the Advanced Technology Advisory Council. The members of the committee will come from diverse backgrounds. Science and technology professionals are to work side-by-side with standouts from public policy, psychology, and other disciplines. What entity will implement the board’s recommendations has yet to be established.
The creation of the board represents a committed effort by Google to take responsibility for company behavior. Interestingly, future actions may derive from the determinations of an application capable of machine learning. Leaving such programs to their own devices without human oversight might not be a good idea. Google realizes this and took action.