Business execs, academics call for urgent debate on AI ethics

A group of Australian business leaders are calling for a national debate on the ethical issues related to AI as businesses rapidly invest in these technologies.

They have signed an open letter to AI and ethics experts saying that despite AI’s potential to deliver tremendous benefits, there are significant risks and challenges that need to be addressed.

“Be they ethical algorithms for autonomous vehicles, bias in AI-powered hiring processes, the impact of fake news bots or the potential to entrench ongoing exclusion on the basis of gender and minority status,” they said in the letter.

“Or the lack of a regulatory and ethical framework, as the pace of development of smart technology leaves the old, dumb law struggling to keep up.”

Business people who signed the letter include: Stuart Fuller and James Mabbott from KPMG Australia; Genevieve Bell, director, 3A Institute at the Australian National University; Ross Buckley, Scientia professor at the University of New South Wales; Nicole Gillespie, professor in management at The University of Queensland; Toby Heap, founding partner at H2 Ventures; and David Thodey, chairman at the CSIRO and JobsNSW.

The group said in the letter that each day, there are examples of why a new regulatory framework is needed.

“We are currently learning more about the complexity and use of algorithms as highlighted by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in its Digital Platforms Inquiry,” the letter said.

“The concerns we feel about new technology solutions are very real. They touch on issues related to privacy, job security, control and trust. Whilst there has been much debate, there has been little progress in how AI should be regulated. We believe that Australia must explore the need for specific organising body to guide and advance the development of ethical frameworks, policy, and regulation as they relate to AI.”

The letter has been released ahead of the first Artificial Intelligence Forum in Sydney on February 7.

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