Few companies that use AI understand the ethical issues it raises.
What’s new: While many companies are ramping up investments in AI, few look for and correct social biases in their models, according to a report by the credit-scoring company Fico. The report surveyed 100 C-level executives in data, analytics, and AI departments at companies that bring in revenue of $100 million or more annually.
What they found: Nearly half of respondents said their company’s investment in AI had grown in the last 12 months. But there was no corresponding rise in efforts to make sure AI was ethical, responsible, and free of bias.
- Over 60 percent of respondents reported that their company’s executives had a poor or partial understanding of AI ethics. Even higher percentages found limited understanding among customers, board members, and shareholders.
- 21 percent had prioritized AI ethics in the past year. Another 30 percent said they would do so this year. Still, 73 percent reported difficulty getting buy-in from colleagues on ethical AI goals.
- There is little consensus on corporate responsibility with regard to AI. Some respondents said they had no responsibility beyond legal and regulatory compliance, while others supported standards of fairness and transparency.
- Around half said they evaluated data and models for bias. 11 percent hired outside evaluators to test models for bias.
- 51 percent of respondents did not monitor models after deployment.
Behind the news: This is Fico’s second annual report, and it shows some improvement over the previous survey: Last year, 67 percent of respondents said they did not monitor systems after deployment.
Why it matters: Never mind technical issues — taking the survey’s results at face value, a substantial percentage of large companies aren’t ready for AI transformation on an ethical level. Businesses that pursue AI without paying attention to ethical pitfalls run the risk of alienating customers and violating laws.
We’re thinking: Companies that pay attention to ethics — in AI and elsewhere — will reap rewards in the form of better products, happier customers, and greater fairness and justice in the world.