How to (AI) act?

AI act - A EU framework but why and how to act - responsibly and ethically -when approaching digital transformation?

How does AI affect my life?

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Artificial intelligence (AI) is a part of everyday life. Systems that use AI range from minimal risk – such as streaming services suggesting the next movie based on watch history – to  those that have a more significant impact, like AI-based tools deciding whether an individual should get a loan or  a job or  AI tools for facial recognition or biometric categorization.

How we choose to regulate fast-moving AI technology will shape the future and our societies. 

Why AI regulation?

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While most AI systems represent limited  to no risk and can contribute to solving e.g. societal challenges, certain  AI systems create risks that must be addressed to avoid harmful outcomes.

It is often not possible to find out why an AI system decided, predicted or took a particular action. So, it may become difficult to assess whether an individual has been unfairly disadvantaged, such as in a hiring decision or in an application for a public benefit scheme.

Although existing legislation provides some protection, it is insufficient to address the specific challenges AI systems may bring.

What is the EU AI Act?

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The EU AI act, signed in January 2024 by EU member states, aims to regulate artificial intelligence (AI) systems within the EU. 
Overall the AI act 

  • seeks to strike a balance between fostering innovation and establishing requirements for their responsible development, deployment and use.
  • classifies AI systems into four different categories based on their potential risks : unacceptable risk (prohibited AI practices), high risk (high-risk AI systems), limited risk (AI systems intended to interact with individuals), and minimal and/or no risk (all other AI systems that are outside the scope of the AI Act).
  • bans some applications of AI technology, imposes conformity assessments and strict limits on use cases for high-risk AI systems and most advanced software models. Transparency obligations, data quality requirements, stress-testing and safeguards for fundamental rights of people are prerequisites. 
  •  outlines enforcement mechanisms and penalties for non-compliance. Hence, as soon as the EU AI act is in effect, companies have 24 months to prepare for compliance before the AI Act enforcement starts.

AI regulations beyond the European Union?

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Other countries and international associations —e.g. OECD or G7 —apply -for now- voluntary guidelines or codes of practice to approach AI only.

However AI  regulations unfold, digital transformation is an essential part of all megatrends and therefore all societal, economic, industrial, environmental and cultural changes, decision-makers and creative people who proactively want to act responsibly and ethically, need an ethical compass for approaching digital transformation. 

Hence, 

how do we sustainably integrate digital ethics and responsibility into our professional context?

3 insights that might raise your interest and awareness for digital ethics and responsibility:

DIGITAL ETHICS: implicate strategic orientation which is based on values incorporating geographical, social and cultural aspects.

 DIGITAL RESPONSIBILITY: calls for action aligned with social, environmental and economic sustainability policies and standards..

ETHICAL GUIDELINES  for digital development typically evolve around principles and values that aim to ensure technology is developed and used in ways that respect among others human rights, promote fairness and equity, transparency, accountability, privacy and data protection and mitigate potential harm.
These principles guide a responsible design, deployment and use of technology that empowers -instead of controlling- people and promote social, environmental and economic sustainability.

The TOOL KIT ‘Digital Ethics Compass’ developed by the Danish Design Center (DDC) is one example that supports a practical approach by providing an ethical checklist that helps decision makers and creative people to ask pointed ethical questions and avoid most common mistakes when designing a new digital product, process or services.

According to DDC, the following is essential for sustainable business development: (1) Digital ethics is a fundamental competitive parameter, (2) defining a common language about ethics, (3) providing space for complex decision-making and (4) identifying ethical dilemmas results in immediate improvements for digital services and products 

TAKEAWAYS

No need to become an IT and data expert to act responsibly and ethically in times of digital transformation. 

Embracing  change and being part in shaping a sustainable and healthy future starts with the ‘know-why’, i.e. an awareness for digital ethics and responsibility.

Apart from regulations, proactively approach digital transformation in your context: responsibly and ethically!

Tool kits supporting a practical approach to sustainably integrate digital ethics and responsibility into your professional context are available.