Three principles to guide responsible use of AI

Throughout history, whenever a new technology emerged, the fear that people would be replaced by that technology became a concern. Now the fear is artificial intelligence (AI) will replace humans in the workplace, with everything from warehouse robots to self-driving cabs.

“Advances in artificial intelligence will lead to job losses, but new forms of employment will take their place,” said IBM CEO Ginni Rometty on a World Economic Forum panel in Davos, Switzerland.

Fears over the impact of AI were a central theme of the panel, run by Vista Equity Partners founder Robert F. Smith. In addition to Ms. Rometty, the panel featured Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, MIT Media Lab Director Joi Ito and HealthTap CEO Ron Gutman.

At Davos, Rometty outlined IBM’s three guiding principles for the development of cognitive technologies just hours after circulating the principles internally.

The first thing to understand is the purpose of these technologies. For IBM, Rometty said, “It will not be man or machine: Our purpose is to augment and be in service of what humans do.”

Next on her list is transparency: “If someone is using a system, tell them it is artificial intelligence. Tell them how it got trained. Was it trained by experts? What data was used to train it? The human needs to remain in control of these systems.”

Companies dealing with AI need to be transparent about the data that goes into products and explain how those products are trained to interpret that data. Rometty went on to say, “With any new technology, we all have to think about how to develop trust and that is around transparency and a set of principles.”

The third principle is to ensure humans have the skills to work with new cognitive technologies. “The odds are there are some jobs that will be replaced, but most of us will be working with these systems,” she said. Companies, including IBM, need to ensure not just that AI’s are trained, but that people are trained, too.

“The skills needed to succeed in this world are not all high-degree skills,” Rometty said, while encouraging businesses to work with schools. “Give them a curriculum that’s relevant, give them mentorship, and be sure they’re teaching what you’re hiring for,” she said.

As ZDNet points out, it will require work to implement all these principles, and it will require buy-in across the industry. On this point, Rometty cites the Partnership on AI as an example of a way in which industry is already taking the lead:

“It’s our responsibility, as leaders that are putting these technologies out, to guide them in their entry to the world in a safe way.”


Read IBM’s position paper, Transparency and Trust in the Cognitive Era and the CNBC article.

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Cognitive Voices

Cognitive Voices. Discussions on latest happenings in AI and cognitive computing.

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