As enterprises increasingly look to artificial intelligence (AI) to support, speed up, or even supplant human decision-making, calls have rung out for AI\u2019s use and development to be subject to a higher power: our collective sense of right and wrong.\n\nOne such entity weighing in on the need for AI ethics is the Vatican, which exactly three years ago, on Feb. 28, 2020, brought together representatives from Microsoft and IBM to first sign the Rome Call for AI Ethics, a commitment to develop AI that serves humanity as a whole.\n\nThis ethical commitment, which brings together high-tech and religious leadership, as well as universities and government entities, was renewed in January 2023, with representatives of the Muslim and Jewish faiths joining alongside the Vatican.\n\nIn many ways, the Rome Call is symbolic, enforcing principles that many IT vendors and enterprises are already undertaking around AI\u2019s use and development. But it also raises the profile of an emerging issue that has real impact on people around the globe \u2014 something CIOs must consider in their approaches to AI.\n\nLaying the groundwork\n\nIBM and others in the IT industry had been thinking about the ethics of AI since long before signing the Rome Call, says Christina Montgomery, the company\u2019s chief privacy officer and chair of its AI ethics board.\n\n\u201cIt\u2019s essentially a reiteration of principles that we had adopted internally, that Microsoft had adopted internally, and that a number of companies were adopting or thinking about at the time,\u201d she says.\n\nIt\u2019s natural for IBM, a company that traces its origins back over a century, to take a more holisitic view of its technology, she says. \u201cWe\u2019re very different culturally from a lot of new technology companies and we think deeply about the technology that we\u2019re putting into the world.\u201d\n\nDeep thought about the ethics of AI is something IBM is encouraging in other ways, supporting the development of a network of universities that will incorporate the principles of the Rome Call for AI Ethics in their curriculums, something that will eventually lead to a new generation of graduates better equipped to consider such questions.\n\nThe six principles\n\nThe Rome Call itself consists of a preamble and six succinct principles that supporters commit to. In their entirety, they are:\n\nWhile software vendors Microsoft and IBM were the first two enterprises to support the Rome Call, its ethos is aimed more broadly at any organization using the technology, in enterprises, governments, and civil society.\n\nIt will be easier for enterprises to comply with some of these principles than with others. Reliability and security can be taken into account at every level, but CIOs may need to bake inclusion and impartiality into project requirements at an early stage.\n\nThe principle of responsibility will require broader buy-in, as it requires a cultural shift to avoid blaming unwelcome decisions on an algorithm, whether AI-based or not.\n\nTransparency, though, is a whole other matter.\n\nHurdles to answering the call\n\nShlomit Yanisky-Ravid, a visiting professor at Fordham University\u2019s School of Law, says that unless we understand what an AI is really doing, we won\u2019t be able to think about the ethical issues around it. \u201cThat\u2019s where I see a lot of gaps and conflicts between the industry and the ethical and legal demands,\u201d she says.\n\nThe EU\u2019s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) already includes provisions that some academics construe as a right to explainability of software in general. Articles 13-15 give those who are subject to the effects of automated decisions a right to \u201cmeaningful information about the logic involved.\u201d\n\nFor IBM\u2019s Montgomery, it\u2019s clear: \u201cUsing AI models in your operations that aren\u2019t explainable, that aren\u2019t transparent, could have unintended consequences.\u201d\n\nBut there\u2019s a problem, says Yanisky-Ravid: \u201cWe can speak about transparency, we can speak about explainability, but we cannot really make it happen \u2014 at least for now.\u201d\n\nHer speciality is intellectual property law, where the opacity of AI systems is making for interesting cases involving the moral right of AIs to be recognized as inventors or creators.\n\nSome of those cases involve Stephen Thaler, creator of an AI tool called Dabus that he used to design a novel food container. His initial attempts to credit Dabus as co-inventor in patent filings around the world were rejected, with patent authorities insisting only a human could be responsible for the process of invention. However, Thaler later won one case on appeal: IP Australia, the government agency, has recognized Dabus as an inventor. Other appeals are ongoing.\n\nSome may be put off by the fact the first signatories of the call included a representative of the Pontifical Academy of Life, an ethics think tank run by the Catholic Church, but IBM\u2019s Montgomery says it was never intended to be just a religious call. \u201cThe goal is to extend it as much as possible.\u201d\n\nWhatever their beliefs, CIOs should be engaging with the ethical questions around AI right now, she says. \u201cIf you wait, it\u2019s too late,\u201d she says.