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Make AI developers sign a Hippocratic Oath, urges ethics report

AI and robotics developers should sign a pledge to only develop technologies that benefit human society, according to a new report from the RSA and YouGov.

The 83-page document, The Age of Automation, suggests that this would help prevent the rise of malignant machine intelligence, a scenario that Elon Musk, Sir Stephen Hawking, and others, have warned about.

The report says, “Ethics training should be made a compulsory part of graduate computer science degrees, potentially culminating in a pledge akin to a Hippocratic Oath.”

There is evidence that people’s fears are recognised and shared by many in the industry.

Dr. Kerstin Dautenhahn, Research Professor of Artificial Intelligence in the School of Computer Science at the University of Hertfordshire, told Computing that although she is one of the developers of AI and robotics technology, she fears that she will not be the one to decide how it is implemented. “That will be down to governments and healthcare companies,” she said.

A number of technology providers have now committed to creating new industry standards for the ethical development of AI. Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, DeepMind, IBM, and Microsoft are founding partners of www.partnershiponai.org.

The organisation says, “We are at an inflection point in the development and application of AI technologies. The upswing in AI competencies, fuelled by data, computation, and advances in algorithms for machine learning, perception, planning, and natural language, promise great value to people and society.

“However, with successes come new concerns and challenges based on the effects of those technologies on people’s lives. These concerns include the safety and trustworthiness of AI technologies, the fairness and transparency of systems, and the intentional as well as inadvertent influences of AI on people and society.”

In January, an EU Parliament investigation recommended the development of an advisory code for robotic engineers, and urged legislators to give robots ‘personhood’ status.

“These efforts should continue, but must not happen behind closed doors”, says the RSA report.

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