By Susan Rebner, CEO of Cyleron, Inc.

As artificial intelligence (AI) technologies flood the market across all industries, embedding AI in your organization will likely be table stakes for its survival. Entrepreneurs who make AI ethics a priority will find themselves ahead of the game. We need to rethink the way in which machines and humans work together within our organizations.

Indeed, while testing the waters of AI, businesses can’t afford to wait until AI regulations catch up to technological advancements and processes. Entrepreneurs must protect their customers, data and reputation by focusing on ethical AI practices without delay. Leadership that works closely with employees and stakeholders regarding the AI road map for their organizations will realize a distinct competitive advantage in terms of attracting and retaining top talent.

Consider these AI ethical risks.

  • Bias and discrimination: Fairness to all stakeholders is of paramount importance to all businesses. One of the biggest concerns surrounding artificial intelligence pertains to the decision making processes of these intelligent machines.
  • Erosion of privacy, legal issues: As the use of AI increases, privacy decreases. AI is often described as Big Brother that is ready to spy on your every move. It’s important that business leaders adequately prepare for AI privacy concerns, as everyone is entitled to the right of privacy.
  • Lack of transparency: Most businesses will not allow the public to see their AI technologies in order to keep their code proprietary. When appropriate, business leaders should consider unveiling their code to the public to improve trust and reduce fear.
  • Accountability issues: How do you hold an AI agent responsible for its actions? This can be further complicated if the AI is largely outsourced rather than developed in house.
  • Workforce displacement: Much of the fear surrounding AI today is centered around machines taking over human jobs. However, many experts believe that AI will have a net positive impact on job creation and that those jobs will be of higher quality overall.

Entrepreneurs, business leaders, customers and employees need to be having the difficult conversations about AI ethics. Let the implications and side effects of AI ethics be known and understood by all. Start asking the hard questions and come together to answer/solve those questions. It is important to note that the ethical implications of AI should be continuously revisited as the technology and implementation scenarios change, but starting the conversation now is imperative.

Start your discussions with these questions.

  • What is the purpose of AI in our organization?
  • Do we all understand how AI systems work in our organization?
  • Who is in control of the AI technologies and who is responsible for them?
  • What are the ethical concerns of AI specifically for our organization and industry?
  • Do we have a governance process in place for AI?
  • How will the impact of AI be measured and monitored?

Now, it’s time to shift from discussion to action. Create a good AI ethics strategy and a solid plan to implement it. Don't be afraid to tackle the hard work due to lack of money, time or resources. Make AI ethics a priority. The entrepreneur owns the responsibility regardless of the circumstances. Remember, ethical AI will not be easy and will require time and energy.

Here are a few ways entrepreneurs can take action.

  • Leverage available technology to avoid unintentional bias.
  • Be honest with customers about what data you are collecting about them.
  • Be proactive with policymaking when it comes it AI.
  • Don’t pass off a customer service chatbot as a human; tell it like it is.
  • Advise employees early and often on how AI will affect their jobs, good or bad.
  • Prepare your employees with AI education so they can remain relevant.
  • Address AI ethics in the company’s code of ethics documentation to support decision-making.

Artificial intelligence will ultimately introduce changes to the workforce landscape like nothing seen in human history. Over the next several decades, there will be massive job displacement, job creation, retraining mandates, etc., and all of this will find ethics at the center of the conversation. Organizational change and development will be of incredible importance to companies across all industries, but without a pervasive ethical framework attached, the results will prove to be inadequate.

Susan Rebner is the CEO of Cyleron, Inc., an artificial intelligence enabled cybersecurity software and solutions company. www.cyleron.com

Published on: Jun 6, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.