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Will AI make us better humans? Why we must be cautious

What does the ancient greek word Ethos have in common with Artificial Intelligence? It’s not news that digitalisation and AI are transforming how we live, work, consume and behave. Ethical concerns often emerge when technologies affect society, and AI is no exception.
A small white and blue robot pictured on display at Aalto's monter at Slush

Artificial Intelligence has the potential to take us further into space, improve how we understand climate change and help develop vaccines for new epidemics, but without careful development, it can also cause havoc in society. Today, different aspects of AI and machine learning algorithms are used in everything from job recruitment to self-driving cars, and the other use cases in nearly every facet of society are emerging at breakneck speed. However, it is evident that the world we live in is not yet ready to give up humanity in favour of technology entirely. 

Professor of Practice Nitin Sawhney, Department of Computer Science at Aalto University examines the intersection of Artificial Intelligence and human-centred design and is one of the lecturers at Digital Business Master Class (DBMC) offered by Aalto University Summer School. The course includes topics such as digital strategies, design, platform development and AI and machine learning. 

‘Systems based on AI often embody and amplify the biases and unfair assumptions embedded in their models by the very people developing them, and the large-scale but incomplete datasets that they often learn from. Just like any technology we regulate in society, from the cars we drive to the drugs we take for treatments, understanding the implications of using AI requires critical public awareness, oversight, trust and accountability.’, says Nitin Sawhney.

Nitin Sawhney looking straight into the camera in a blue shirt with white dots.

Understanding the implications of using AI requires critical public awareness, oversight, trust and accountability.

Nitin Sawhney, Professor in Practice at Department of Computer Science and lecturer at Digital Business Master Class

The Digital Business Master Class students are all working on digital strategies for real business cases from partnering companies. During the course, the students gained insights into applying their knowledge about AI to their own business projects.

Svitlana Chaplinska is an Erasmus exchange student from Ukraine and is currently studying at the Master's Programme in Security and Cloud Computing at Aalto University. She finished the Digital Business Master Class at Aalto University Summer School this spring and felt incredibly inspired by the lecture about ethics and AI. 

‘I was so intrigued by the lecture that I could not keep my mind off the topic for several days afterwards! We all know that AI’s ethical aspects are a real issue that very much exists. To acknowledge this, it is important to stay informed and educate ourselves about how the effects of AI will change our lives in some ways or another.’, says Svitlana Chaplinska.

Several problematic cases show that AI generally lacks both inclusivity and cultural diversity when collecting and evaluating data. Stereotypical beauty filters on Instagram, face recognition software that doesn’t recognize dark-skinned people and recruitment algorithms that automatically filter out women. The list goes on. At the same time, reports tell us that half of all current jobs will be replaced by machine learning or AI within a decade. That number may be realistic or not – but we should all be aware of a true industrial crisis that we may be facing regarding the future of our jobs. 

AI systems are already being developed to learn from and exceed human capabilities in many realms, but is this something we should strive for? Humanity is an inevitable element in avoiding the harm that these systems’ unethical use can cause as they lack both emotions and empathy – all the things that make us human and something that hopefully will never be replaced by an algorithm or computer.

‘How do we design algorithmic systems and data-centric technologies that align with human values, but also societal and environmental concerns? Part of the answer lies in democratizing AI through open education, improving diversity and inclusion in the field, ensuring trustworthy policies and governance while engaging both ethical business practices and wider aspirations of civil society. We must strive for futures that center human and ecological well-being, as we reimagine the role of Artificial Intelligence in society.’, explains Nitin Sawhney.

Read more about the Digital Business Master Class and apply before April 30th 2021!

Svitlana Chaplinska sitting with her laptop and smiling towards the camera in a futuristic, round and red chair integrated to the wall at Aalto University campus.

DBMC Alumna Svitlana Chaplinska: ‘The course exceeded all my expectations'

The spring edition of the Digital Business Master Class by Aalto University Summer School took place in March this year.

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