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Athabasca University Tackles Ethics of Artificial Intelligence

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The new four-course program will be offered online starting next year. It will focus on data, machine learning and robotics.

The ethics of artificial intelligence is a suitcase concept that refers to all the ways in which artificial intelligence can do harmexplains Ethically Aligned AI CEO Katrina Ingram, who helped develop the program.

It’s basically about smart, autonomous machines that can achieve goals., she adds.

When artificial intelligence rethinks privacy

Privacy is one of the main areas impacted by these new technologies, notes Ms. Ingram. When you think about how artificial intelligence is creating a culture of surveillance, it’s really disturbing.

Beyond data collection, there are also questions of algorithms and how their results can reinforce certain imbalances.

In the case of facial recognition, for example, researchers have already established that this technology has difficulty identifying people who are not white.

Assistant professor of computer science Nidhi Hegde, University of Alberta, notes that machine learning and algorithms can be used for all kinds of things.

However, she points out that by accumulating data on people, these technologies make connections that can reinforce historical inequalities.

They make decisions relying on evidence that is not adequate to determine whether a person is suitable for a job, such as ethnicity, age or gender, she notes.

Ms. Hegde adds that removing these items from the database is not enough to remove the potential harm.

As artificial intelligence creeps into everyday life, so does concern over its potential effects, she adds. We hear more and more about it on social networks [et] among workers in the field.

Courses offered to all, but specialized for the industry

While Athabasca University’s program is for everyone, it is of particular interest to developers of systems using artificial intelligence, says Katrina Ingram.

According to her, the ethical issues that touch the heart of their practice are becoming increasingly important as technology develops.

Beyond so-called technological companies, all organizations, at one point or another, will end up dealing with artificial intelligence and the ethical issues that go with it, she thinks.

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