The Importance of Ethics in AI

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

Some universities and organizations have been working in researching ethical initiatives about AI. The results show that the majority of initiatives come from western countries, leaving very little space for opinions of the global south.

It’s true that the ones leading the development of ethical appliances of AI are the USA and the European Union. Other top countries, like China and India, are providing a big advance in AI and probably have a lot to share in how to make it fairer too.

On those analyses, very few approaches come from South America and Africa. And when we talk about South America we should watch closely who is participating. Chile and Argentina, which are predominantly white, are the ones contributing with their voices and there’s no space for indigenous communities.

However, there are private initiatives that are doing exceptional work in the AI field. Te Hiku Media is a radio station from New Zealand that wanted to create an NLP project in order to preserve the Maori language.

Apart from preserving the language, they want to create a sense of community and job opportunities for their people. They’ve been receiving offers to sell their project to big tech companies, but this is an act of digital resistance that many others should follow.

Many times, when we try to fight against the status quo, we reproduce the structures we want to avoid. And it seems AI ethics is only listening to a single voice (from the USA and Europe). The good thing is we’re still in time to change this narrative.

We can learn from our diversity in many different ways. There’s a lot to win from a diverse perspective and this is a little approach to what we can learn from the global south.

Asia

In my opinion, China and Taiwan are very interesting countries to study. The former is the second country in AI development and the latter has shown how AI participation in their society has helped to slow down the effects of the pandemic.

We are usually terrified when we think of China as a strategic AI ethics partner, but we need to listen to what they have to say regarding this topic. And of course, we must not forget that India has also strong importance as they’re providing the world with new developers.

One thing we could learn from Asian societies is the importance of protecting their communities. We could ask ourselves what we can do to protect our communities when using AI products, for example, or how we can receive better feedback from our consumers so that no one is left aside.

Africa

This continent has plenty of philosophies and knowledge about the relationship between the community and other groups, but also with the environment. One of the most important philosophies, Ubuntu, is very popular in the global north and for sure we can learn from this and other ways of connecting with people.

This philosophy encourages equity and the distribution of wealth. Two important concepts we can transfer to AI for sure. For example, with sustainable development of technology.

One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu — the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality — Ubuntu — you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.

Desmond Tutu

South America

What we’ve heard until now from this region are white voices proposing changes in AI. It’s time that people from indigenous origin come out and speak about how AI can help not only big corporations but also themselves.

I’m pretty sure we can preserve their languages and cultures with tech. In order to make sure this, we need more diverse people on the table, not only in junior levels. We need to see them as senior and board members.

They can teach us their sense of community, sustainable practices of AI, and how to continue honoring our elders with the use of technology.

Oceania

As mentioned before, the Maori community is teaching us at the moment how we can keep our heritage alive. Our language honors our roots and we should keep it alive for the future to come. That’s the message this community is weaving perfectly.

Many societies of this continent have been prohibited to speak their native languages and maintain only a few traditions from their heritage. AI can be a tool to empower their culture and we can learn from them admirable examples of resistance.

Religions

I think it’s important to remark also the importance of religion in the world of AI ethics and ethics in general. Religions shape our cultures and how we build our societies.

For example, we can learn from books like the Coran and its interpretation. It can teach us how to deploy its morality in all paths of our life and how we can incorporate it too in AI.

Tying it all together

You can extract from this article 3 important keys:

  1. We must not reproduce in AI ethics the mistakes we’re trying to solve.
  2. That’s why we must diversify our ethical perspective with voices from around the world. That’s the only way AI experience will be really global.
  3. It’s a fantastic opportunity to build the AI we want and approach it to all kinds of citizens because, in the end, it’s part of our present and our future.

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