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Digital Vision: Ethics

Global opinion paper

Download full opinion paper

Ethical principles for business in a digital world

John Hall, Head of Strategy & Portfolio, Atos Fellow and Editor in Chief of the Scientific Community, Atos

Ethics encompasses the moral principles that govern a person’s behavior and the way that activities are conducted. It helps set the dividing line between what we consider to be right and wrong.

Broadly speaking, there are three schools of ethical thought – virtue ethics (“am I a good person?”), consequentialism (“do my actions have good consequences”) and duty-based ethics (“am I following an ethical code?”). These questions have helped shape ethical principles and codes of conduct for individuals and organizations in all walks of life. They help establish frameworks around areas such as the fairness and integrity of business transactions or the way that medical practitioners operate. Although most large enterprises work to a defined code of business ethics, these are not typically directly translatable to the application of digital technologies such as Artificial Intelligence. However, by drawing parallels with ethical frameworks in the healthcare profession, as they relate to the care of patients, we can gain some helpful insights as to how they might be applied.

Ethics and the limits of AI

Guillaume von der Weid, Philosopher

AI systems have the potential for great decision-making power but have no consciousness or moral conscience. The challenge now is to make sure that AI reflects and respects the ethical dimension of human society.

Something has gone badly wrong. A self-driving car controlled by AI is hurtling towards a barrier at high speed. If it crashes, the lone passenger will be killed instantly. If the AI system swerves the car to the right, the vehicle will run into a group of five pedestrians and kill them all. What decision should it make? Should the car be programmed to protect its passengers or should it be prepared to sacrifice them for the greater good?

Embedding ethical values into intelligent systems

Célestino Guemes Seoane, Solutions R&D, Atos

Some of the most evident technology-driven ethical issues result from the changes brought about by Artificial Intelligence (AI). These are highlighted in the news almost daily and include racial discrimination in facial recognition systems, gender bias in business applications, the widely-perceived “exploitation” of privacy by digital platforms, and inequality caused by automation.

As active players in this society-shaping evolution, technologists are starting to adopt a more involved, proactive stance that seeks to minimize negative impacts of technology and foster positive societal progress. While we need to avoid imposing our own values on others, as a minimum we should be aware of the ethical impacts of our own technological decisions. And as with many other high-impact concepts such as security, privacy or accessibility, our involvement cannot be an afterthought. If you try to retrofit this kind of thinking you will never get an optimal solution.

Integrating digital ethics in Corporate Social Responsibility

Alexandra Knupe, Global Head Corporate Social Responsibility, Atos

By deploying the immense power of digital innovation within a robust ethical framework, information technology companies such as Atos can shape progress towards a digital society that is more inclusive, fair and sustainable.

In recent years, and in response to rising concerns from investors, other stakeholders and society in general, most large enterprises have been steadily incorporating the principles of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) into their operating practices, value systems and reporting procedures.

CSR has long been a leading priority for Atos. In recent years we decided to explicitly extend this to a commitment towards Corporate Digital Responsibility to develop a culture of ethics and compliance that encourages the deployment of artificial intelligence and other digital innovations for the benefit of all society.

Digital ethics: building trust in sharing data

Jessica Hofmann, Founder and Managing Director, Blockchain Factory, Atos

The rise of blockchain and other distributed ledger technologies are illustrative of a growing need for solutions that provide trust at an ecosystem level. In a world where globalization continues at a pace and business ecosystems become increasingly complex, trusted business exchanges are essential for success.

Technologies such as blockchain enable trust ecosystems by connecting independent parties and facilitating the trusted exchange of value between those parties. The value exchange is shaped by features such as visibility, transparency, immutability, auditability and real-time insight, providing business partners with a new level of trusted exchange, ownership and confidence that can bring significant operational benefits. At the same time, the impact of these features is a source of ethical dilemmas: is it always desirable to have these new levels of visibility, auditability and insight in the value exchanges we conduct?

The ethics of Digital Business Models

David Daly, Global Deal Assurance Manager and member of the Atos Scientific Community, Worldline

Businesses and organizations wanting to embrace the opportunities presented by new technologies are advised to analyze how they expect their business models to evolve in order to leverage digitization, data-driven insights, and multi-sided platforms in line with ethical considerations.

Digitalization, the full or partial replacement of physical goods and/or services with digital equivalents, opens up new business models because it reduces the marginal costs of production and distribution by orders of magnitude. The digitalization of goods and services both increases the speed and convenience of consumption or usage and enables vast amounts of data about customer behavior to be collected.

AI explainability: how do we make the complex comprehensible

José Esteban Lauzan, Head of Innovation at Iberia and founding member of the Scientific Community and Distinguished Expert, Atos Amélie Groud, Senior Data Scientist and member of the Scientific Community, Atos

In the case of some AI algorithms, especially machine learning (ML) ones, the result of an AI solution cannot be understood by a human expert in a particular subject matter and the designer of the solution cannot explain why the AI arrived at that specific result. Lack of explainability raises concerns around safety, ethics, fairness, reliability and ultimately trust in the proposed solution.

AI Explainability is complicated. ML algorithms aim to detect patterns and hence insight from input data, but this process cannot be comprehended by simply listing rules or instructions in human-readable format. The machine learning process also cannot be understood by comparing it to a human learning process.

Regulators take up the AI gauntlet

Vincent Couteau, Corporate Legal Counsel, Atos

As global understanding of the massive scale and impact of digital transformation increases, policymakers have real- ized the need for ethical standards and guidelines to curb any potential adverse impacts from new technologies in relation to privacy and loss of control of personal data.

Rising to this challenge, in April 2019 the European Commission presented its Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence following a stakeholder consultation launched at the end of 2018. These guidelines, which are considered elsewhere in this publication, focus on the need for AI applications to have ethical purpose and technical robustness.

AI+Ethics: towards a Digital Society

Kulveer Ranger, Senior Vice President Strategy & Communications, Atos UK&I

It also encouraged us all to look at AI from a different and equally important angle: one that asks not only what AI can do, but also what it should do. This is the mission of Atos’ ongoing work in this space.

It is an undisputable fact that digital technology carries with it enormous power to transform every aspect of people’s lives. Over the past 20 years or so, we transitioned swiftly into hyper-connected ways of living which are now so ubiquitous as to become almost invisible. Artificial Intelligence may be self-apparent in digital personal assistants — Echo, Alexa and Siri fit smoothly into an archetype of AI that stretches back to HAL 90001 and beyond — but its reach stretches much further, from the algorithms behind search engines and travel planners to prescriptive maintenance that helps keep critical national infrastructure safe and operational.

Collective Intelligence: can human and machine intelligence work in unison?

Marianne Hewlett, Chief Marketing Officer, Atos in the Netherlands

Artificial Intelligence (AI), automation and robotization have the power to exclude but, more importantly, they have the power to enhance our human experience. Understanding the opportunities and threats posed by new technologies from a human-centric perspective will be key to ensuring their acceptance and delivering the maximum benefit to individuals, organizations and society at large.

Technology is rapidly changing the world of work as we know it, from digital assistants to robot colleagues. However, technologies such as AI and automation are not about replacing people. Instead, they can create new opportunities by elevating certain skills and optimizing specific tasks and activities. By automating routine tasks and using AI to gain faster and better data insights, more time becomes available to carry out tasks that humans are great at, such as complex problem solving, critical thinking and creativity – essential skills for the future workspace.

Data ethics and global cultural differences

Soren Juul Jorgensen, Research Fellow, Stanford University

Artificial intelligence (AI) and the use of data have the potential to provide effective solutions to many of our global challenges. But tech also raises important questions, and we need effective guidelines to curb the risks to privacy, aspects of our daily lives and to society and democratic institutions.

In order to develop global principles which are acceptable across different cultures and traditions, policymakers should base their efforts on the universally accepted framework of international human rights law.

AI is fundamentally changing the game, and how to govern these emerging powers raises important questions and risks to fundamental rights, to which we need to develop general and global answers. We also need to understand how AI and tech is perceived in different cultural and social settings — and how AI impacts these.

The value of a diverse workforce in inclusive AI development

Neil Milliken, Head of Accessibility & Digital Inclusion and member of the Scientific Community, Atos Denise Reed Lamoreaux, Global Chief Diversity Officer, Atos

At Atos, we are making a concerted effort to avoid the pitfalls that arise from negative bias, especially when used to analyze people data.

Given the critical nature of data in the legal, education, finance and transportation spaces, enormous damage could result in the blink of an eye if AI systems are not carefully constructed to eliminate the opportunity for the data to become tainted by discrimination.

The data sets we are using to train AI may also be reflective of pre-existing societal bias, and applied algorithms may amplify them. We must determine and function within the “boundary of acceptability” when developing algorithms so that technology doesn’t go rogue and create a situation similar to recruiting tools that were reported in the media to inadvertently be biased against women.

Digital ethics in policing

Jon Mottershead, Client Executive, Atos

For over 200 years the UK police forces have operated to a set of nine key principles that were first articulated by Sir Robert Peel. They embody values such as building trust and co-operation with the public, preventing crime rather than just responding to it, using minimal force, and demonstrating absolute impartiality.

These principles have stood the test of time in the physical world of policing, but how well do they translate to the digital world that has brought massive changes to the way crime (now cybercrime) is viewed?

At a purely technological level, the Peelian principles arguably have some resonance with the high-level objectives of digital, particularly in the context of digital ethics. We want digital systems to build trust, to be fair, to be efficient and to prevent problems rather than cause them. But certain digital technology developments may raise barriers to implementing and enforcing such values.

Insurance in the driving seat of change

Javier Ponce Suarez, Head of Digital Transformation and member of the Scientific Community, Atos

While other industries are only just beginning to grapple with the challenges and opportunities of the data revolution, digital transformation is already an established reality in the insurance sector.

For some years now, leading insurance firms have been using data analytics, the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) to price risk, profile clients, manage claims and connect better with their customers. For instance, Atos is using its IoT expertise to support a global insurance company in transforming car insurance with a Pay- How-You-Drive (PHYD) scheme which promotes safer driving, reduces premiums and lowers costs for the insurance firm.

Ethical dilemmas in genetic testing

Natalia Jimenez, Global Life Science Expert, Atos

The health department of one high-profile club recently encountered a big dilemma when it discovered that a highly talented member of its female youth academy, with strong prospects for a future in the main club, carried two gene mutations that could make her susceptible to developing malignant arrythmia.

The doctors and representatives of the club’s management met with the young footballer, who was only 15 years old, to explain the situation. After a number of meetings to discuss the issue with her, the club decided that, in spite of her impressive talent and potential, they could not to put her forward for selection for the main team as they wanted to prevent her premature death.

The challenges of perceptive media

Paul Moore, Head of Innovation for the Media Market at Atos and member of the Scientific Community

As old as civilization itself, storytelling has acquired a new relevance in the world of digital media, helping brands to connect with consumers and create compelling relationships with their customers.

Digital innovation is now enabling organizations to tell their stories in increasingly immersive, interactive and personalized ways. Media is becoming intelligent and perceptive. Each person may consume content in a unique way and enjoy a dynamic and customized experience.

The ethical smart city

Albert Seubers, Director Global Strategy in Cities, Atos

In cities of the future, data is collected from multiple sources and organized to help people make better-informed decisions. Already many cities around the world are using real-time information from cameras, sensors, and social media to improve traffic, enhance safety and minimize the environmental impact of urban life.

If smart city solutions are to fulfil their transformative potential, they also need to address the ethical dilemmas inherent in these services.

All smart city projects are based on the sharing between authorities, citizens and third parties of information from sensors and other intelligence. The technology to achieve invaluable insights is now proven. But only if this information is implemented in a way that protects personal privacy and addresses the concerns of local communities will the smart city paradigm prosper.