October 5, 2018

“The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do.”

-B.F. Skinner

Intelligent Systems promise to change our lives for the better. Wearable electronic devices can track your vitals for your next doctor’s visit, virtual assistants can order your groceries, and self-driving cars can get you to work faster. (See Module 2 and Module 3 to learn more about Intelligent Systems and their broad utility and promise.) We have more access, more power, and more knowledge than ever before.

Advancements in technology are changing society in profound ways. These innovations emerge so rapidly that we barely have a moment to pause and consider their risks and consequences. Their novelty confronts us with unfamiliar and elusive ethical dilemmas, which we typically get the chance to address only after they have entered our world. Suddenly we have systems that learn with unintended bias and autonomous vehicles need to make life-or-death decisions. Facebook is being brought before Congress to answer for their data breach. Policy cannot keep up either, which is why the onus is increasingly on industry members to innovate responsibly. Emerging technologies profoundly influence both industrial ecosystems and the broader society. The challenge for corporations is to consider and understand the ethical implications of the technologies they use, develop, and share.

The Crash Course for this module will familiarize you with the central ethical considerations that are generally relevant to any emerging technology and guide you through the ethical issues that are specific to intelligent systems. With those foundational ethical frames in place, the crash course will highlight themes that can help you navigate those issues. By knowing what ethical factors are important and how to consider them, business leaders will be ahead of the curve and less susceptible to making mistakes.

The first part of the Crash Course, “Ethical Principles for New Technologies,outlines five ethical principles that can address any emerging intelligent system or technology. These principles—applicable to all stages of technology, whether research, design, development or deployment—can help inform your business’ policies or strategy.

The second section, “Key Ethical Topics for Intelligent Systems, will introduce the major ethical considerations in the landscape of intelligent systems. Becoming familiar with these topics will provide insight into the current ethical hurdles and benefits of emerging technologies.

The third section, “Key Drivers and Trends, discusses some of the current events, as well as some of the important policies and regulations, that are shaping ethics and technology today. Each trend and/or driver includes a brief overview, examples, and links for more information. This section seeks to prepare business leaders for the future of intelligent systems by highlighting the major influential forces and events from an ethics perspective.

The Deep Dive for this module consists of a repository of resources for those who want to learn more about the intelligent systems policy and ethics landscape. It includes a list of reputable websites to keep you up to date with tech news, white papers and reports, informative articles, best practices documents for guidance, and a list of organizations shaping the field.

Finally, a set of Ethical Case Studies will follow the learning module separately. This supplementary section offers a frame of reference that fuses the Ethical Principles for New Technology with Ethical Topics for Intelligent Systems from our Crash Course. These case studies will teach the audience to identify, think through, and understand the different ethical principles and key topics as they apply to specific technologies. Through learning about these systems and working through case studies, business leaders will have a better grasp of the current state of affairs from an ethical perspective.

Want the rest of the module?  IRI members and SPRINGBOARD attendees can download it here.

Nonmembers may request one module free of charge.  Subsequent modules can be purchased as a bundle here.  To request this module, please email Lee Green at green@iriweb.org.