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Engineering an Ethical AI System

YOW! Data 2019

To improve people’s well-being, we must improve the decisions made about them. Consequential decisions are increasingly being made by AI, like selecting who to recruit, who receives a home-loan or credit card, and how much someone pays for goods or services. AI systems have the potential to to make these decisions more accurately and at a far greater scale than humans. However, if AI decision-making is improperly designed it runs the risk of doing unintentional harm, especially to already disadvantaged members of society. Only by building AI systems that accurately estimate the real impact of possible outcomes on a variety of ethically relevant measures, rather than just accuracy or profit, can we ensure this powerful technology improves the lives of everyone.

This talk focuses on the anatomy of these ethically-aware decision-making systems, and some design principles to help the data scientists, engineers and decision-makers collaborating to build them. We motivate the discussion with a high-level simulation of the "selection" problem where individuals are targeted, based on relevant features, for an opportunity or an intervention. We detail the necessary considerations and the potential pitfalls when engineering an ethically-aware automated solution, from initial conception through to causal analysis, deployment and on-going monitoring.