Ethical Use of AI

Jul 4, 2024

Jul 4, 2024

Jul 4, 2024

Ethical Use of AI in Software Development: Things to Consider

Ethical Use of AI in Software Development: Things to Consider

Ethical Considerations in AI-driven Software Development: A Memo for Developers

Ours is the age of rapid advent of artificial intelligence into numerous IT-fueled spheres of our lives – from healthcare and education to banking and insurance. The power that AI wields is so compelling that it has become not only the core of multiple digital products but also a robust tool for developing software solutions

While no one doubts the immense technical capabilities of this know-how and even predicts the possible ousting of human personnel by generative mechanisms, the ethical implications of AI in software development are still a matter of heated debate across the IT community. 

This article explains why ethical factors are important in AI-driven software creation, enumerates key ethical challenges in this domain, recommends how developers should tackle related issues, and outlines future prospects of this problem. 

The Importance of Ethical Considerations in AI Development Made Plain

Let’s begin with the basics and find out what AI ethics is. This term is used to describe moral guidelines and norms that serve as underlying principles for all stakeholders (both IT workforce and authority representatives) who ensure the technology is leveraged responsibly. Briefly speaking, it boils down to a secure, humane, inclusive, and eco-friendly approach to AI driven software development and employment. Such an approach has regulatory foundations in legislative frameworks promulgated by government agencies and international organizations, as well as in codes of ethics adopted by companies in their pipeline.

What are the major reasons for introducing ethics into AI-related activities?

  • Impact on society. AI systems are utilized in many critical domains (finance, defense, criminal justice, and more), which means they directly influence and promote the well-being and safety of both separate individuals and large communities. 

  • Sustainability. The ethical use of AI contributes to the responsibility of high-tech initiatives, which rules out the excessive consumption of various resources, reducing wastage and environmental pollution. 

  • Risk mitigation. When AI is created and leveraged with an eye to ethical aspects, it forestalls possible risks associated with the technology. It spells minimization of financial losses, avoidance of reputational damage, and elimination of legal issues.

  • Confidence and trust. When the public knows that AI ethical dilemmas are handled properly, they are sure such products are safe to use. As a result, ethically-guided software development fosters trust among consumers and enhances the reputation of the company that launched them, thus promoting brand loyalty. 

Evidently, ethics reigns supreme when it comes to creating and using digital products with the help of AI tools. What are some ethical considerations when using generative AI for software development?

Main Ethical Issues with AI in Software Development Scrutinized

Being a seasoned vendor specializing in delivering AI-powered software building tools, Metatable.ai prioritizes the following ethical aspects in the solutions it offers.

Transparency

This characteristic describes people's ability to understand and explain how AI arrives at the decisions it makes. It refers to the workings of AI algorithms and the data sources they employ in their ML-driven operations. 

If vendors fail to provide it, it may lead to lawsuits, as it happened with OpenAI, which was accused by Hollywood writers and actors of unauthorized usage of their material. In some cases, the lack of transparency led to inconveniences for bank customers whose transactions were blocked by AI risk-assessment and fraud-detection mechanisms. Yet worse, people had to face criminal investigations but couldn't figure out why AI red-flagged them or put them under suspicion.

AI ethical issues related to transparency can be mitigated by implementing standards that require AI mechanisms to explain their decisions, leveraging decision trees and other interpretable models, developing LIME-driven tools, etc. 

Bias and Fairness

If the data used for training AI algorithms contains bias (for instance, a gender bias in the hiring routine), the machine will carry that bias into the deliverables it produces, rejecting applications that don't conform to such discriminatory practices. 

The most famous instance of this problem occurred in 2015 when Google Photos labeled a black couple as apes because the representatives of this racial group were underrepresented in models utilized for AI training. Other mistakes were detected in pictures by image generators (Midjourney and Imagen), where professionals were always white men and German Nazi soldiers were people of color. 

To address ethical concerns of AI being biased, engineers should ensure meticulous data curation, guarantee leveraging representative and diverse datasets, conduct regular algorithm audits, and implement fairness-aware models. IBM went even further and developed a special product (AI Fairness 360 toolkit) called to mitigate bias in AI operations.

Privacy and Data Protection

The more data AI mechanisms rely on, the better the results they generate. Yet, the growth of data volume triggers the increase in the degree of risk of these dossiers being compromised. If improperly collected, stored, shared, or processed, such data may lead to identity theft, privacy violations, or unauthorized surveillance. In the IT realm, the reliance on inadequate code-generating tools can create software security gaps and vulnerabilities, turning this problem into the top concern for 22% of AI users, according to the recent Deloitte survey.

Source

Ethical uses of AI prioritize customer privacy, adhere to relevant compliance standards (GDPR, HIPAA, CCPA., etc.), and implement robust data protection instruments. Besides, developers dealing with AI should pay attention to such measures as anonymization, consent, stringent access control, and have adequate encryption mechanisms in place. 

Accountability

Humans may rely on machines in decision-making, but it is people who must take ultimate responsibility for the consequences of AI-recommended steps, especially if they are negative. That is why ethical considerations for AI usage presuppose establishing clear-cut lines of accountability between software engineers, data scientists, and operators, as well as providing traceability and auditability throughout the solution’s creation and lifecycle. 

What should be done to maximize ethics in SDLC?

How to Deal with Ethical Issues in Software Development

The best practices for building ethical AI solutions encompass:

  • Developing ethical guidelines and standards. The development team should involve a wide pool of stakeholders (both technical experts and non-tech staff) in creating ethical frameworks and protocols prioritizing accountability, transparency, and fairness. Such protocols should be accessible to all personnel participating in software development and flexible enough to adjust to changes in technologies and social values. We recommend formulating them as checklists to go through during the SDLC.

  • Integrating ethical considerations of AI usage at all stages of product development. Each milestone in the SDLC should include an ethical dimension. It is possible by embracing a user-centric approach to the creation of software products. It means involving a wide user audience in design and development workflows, building an MVP, holding co-design workshops, collecting feedback to be used as actionable insights in your projects, etc.

  • Conducting ethical impact audits and assessments. Before the actual development process begins, you should assess the ethical impact and pinpoint potential implications and risks. During the SDLC, you should continually review the process, keeping your eyes skinned for AI ethical considerations and relying on qualitative metrics and indicators utilized for tracking progress towards ethical goals. After the product is finished, you should run its ethical evaluation to understand whether it meets corresponding requirements, identify problem areas, and address exposed issues. 

  • Realizing limitations and risks. You should analyze all potential ethical biases, uncertainties, and unexpected consequences related to software operation. After revealing such points, you should document them and inform users about them with the help of explanations, warnings, and disclaimers. After all, they have a right to know what they are up against, and being straightforward and honest with your audience is the best policy.

  • Ensuring regulatory compliance. Many ethical norms have a statutory foundation as elements of national or transnational legal frameworks. You should see to it that your software product complies with industry-specific standards (for instance, GDPR or HIPAA) and follows established guidelines (like those provided by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) or the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)). Supporting accreditation and certification programs is one more measure to enforce an ethical approach to software development. 

  • Introducing continuous learning and improvement. Your team should never stop in its movement toward embracing ethical standards in software creation. Knowledge-sharing sessions, awareness lectures, and ethics-focused workshops will spread information concerning ethical AI development and keep your employees updated on the latest trends in this field. Plus, ethical dialog, debate, and reflection held on a permanent basis will cultivate an appropriate culture within the organization and foster ethics awareness across it.

The efficient implementation of ethical considerations in AI software development is impossible without anticipating what the future has in store for the niche.

Ethical AI Software Development: A Glimpse into the Future

As far as we can see, the general trend of ethics evolution in the AI-driven SDLC is related to ensuring AI solutions are built and employed fairly. In all probability, future scenarios for the industry will include:

  • A growing demand for AI ethics specialists. Tech companies will increasingly realize that incorporating ethics into AI-powered makes perfect business sense. And industry behemoths (such as IBM, Google, and Microsoft) already have specialists in this domain on their staff. They may have different job titles (AI ethics consultant, AI policy analyst, AI ethicist, or even responsible AI developer), but their responsibilities center around aligning AI systems with ethical principles. The growing importance of AI ethical issues will cause the excess of demand over supply of such experts. 

  • Comprehensive ethical frameworks. These will become the core of the SDLC, being integrated across all development stages – from ideation, discovery phase, and project planning to UI/UX design, coding, testing, and deployment. It will guarantee the ethics-first approach to software building instead of taking thought for it when the solution goes live.

  • Improved standards and laws. The ever-growing footprint of artificial intelligence will stimulate national governments and international bodies to develop and introduce stronger legal norms that enforce ethics in software creation and provide mechanisms for monitoring and verifying regulatory compliance. And the harbinger of such legislative innovations was the Artificial Intelligence Act adopted by the EU in March this year. 

  • Cross-disciplinary partnership. Successfully addressing ethical challenges in the IT domain is possible only by involving specialists from multiple fields (law, technology, ethics, anthropology, data science, and more). The collaboration of experts from related sectors will enrich the development process and allow unified teams to look at the SDLC from different vantage points.

  • Global cooperation. With the borders between countries disappearing and the world quickly becoming one global village, it is clear that representatives of different nations should work together to create universal ethical standards. Such joint efforts will help balance ethical norms across countries and implement them more efficiently. 

  • Public engagement. The audience participating in discussing ethical considerations of AI-related aspects won’t be limited to niche specialists and industry experts. Such debates will also involve wide strata of the population who use AI-fueled digital products. This will not only elevate the level of discussion but also promote the formation of a more informed and conscientious audience that is well-versed in ethical issues.

  • Prioritizing social good. As a Deloitte report published last year revealed, 39% of companies’ executives believe in the tremendous potential of AI-powered technologies for social good. Evidently, we will witness their active participation in projects contributing to society's well-being. 

To take all these revolutionary changes in their stride, you should have a seasoned expert to help you embrace AI ethics and incorporate its basic principles in the software your organization employs and/or develops. Metatable.ai has substantial experience in delivering AI-driven software development platforms to the global audience, so our specialists have an in-depth understanding of ethical considerations underlying contemporary AI products. They can lend you a helping hand in onboarding ethical AI software development. 

Key Takeaways

Throughout history, while technical progress pushed the envelope by leaps and bounds, ethical considerations were often ignored. The advent of artificial intelligence has moved ethics to the forefront, so any forward-looking contemporary business and tech company should take thought for the ethical use of AI.

The major issues related to the employment of AI in software development cover the system’s transparency, fairness, privacy, and accountability. To address them, organizations should have ethical guidelines in place, integrate ethical considerations at all SDLC stages, regularly conduct ethical assessments and audits, ensure regulatory compliance, and provide ethics education for their personnel. By implementing these measures as elements of a comprehensive strategy, companies will mitigate related risks, foster confidence and trust among their clientele, and display their sustainability commitment. 

AI ethical issues are likely to gain greater traction in the future, stimulating businesses and governments to develop extensive ethical frameworks, improve legal regulations, engage the public in their work, promote cross-disciplinary cooperation and global partnership, prioritize social good, and include AI ethicists in their workforce on a permanent basis.

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Ethical Use of AI in Software Development: Things to Consider

Ethical Use of AI

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