Ethics as a service: a pragmatic operationalisation of AI Ethics

21 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2021 Last revised: 10 Jul 2022

See all articles by Jessica Morley

Jessica Morley

Oxford Internet Institute

Anat Elhalal

Digital Catapult

Francesca Garcia

Digital Catapult

Libby Kinsey

Digital Catapult

Jakob Mökander

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute

Luciano Floridi

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute; University of Bologna- Department of Legal Studies

Date Written: February 11, 2021

Abstract

As the range of potential uses for Artificial Intelligence (AI), in particular machine learning (ML), has increased, so has awareness of the associated ethical issues. This increased awareness has led to the realisation that existing legislation and regulation provides insufficient protection to individuals, groups, society, and the environment from AI harms. In response to this realisation, there has been a proliferation of principle-based ethics codes, guidelines and frameworks. However, it has become increasingly clear that a significant gap exists between the theory of AI ethics principles and the practical design of AI systems. In previous work , we analysed whether it is possible to close this gap between the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of AI ethics through the use of tools and methods designed to help AI developers, engineers, and designers translate principles into practice. We concluded that this method of closure is currently ineffective as almost all existing translational tools and methods are either too flexible (and thus vulnerable to ethics washing) or too strict (unresponsive to context). This raised the question: if, even with technical guidance, AI ethics is challenging to embed in the process of algorithmic design, is the entire pro-ethical design endeavour rendered futile? And, if no, then how can AI ethics be made useful for AI practitioners? This is the question we seek to address here by exploring why principles and technical translational tools are still needed even if they are limited, and how these limitations can be potentially overcome by providing theoretical grounding of a concept that has been termed ‘Ethics as a Service.’

Keywords: Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Data Ethics, Applied Ethics, Business Ethics

Suggested Citation

Morley, Jessica and Elhalal, Anat and Garcia, Francesca and Kinsey, Libby and Mökander, Jakob and Floridi, Luciano, Ethics as a service: a pragmatic operationalisation of AI Ethics (February 11, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3784238 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3784238

Jessica Morley (Contact Author)

Oxford Internet Institute ( email )

1 St. Giles
University of Oxford
Oxford OX1 3PG Oxfordshire, Oxfordshire OX1 3JS
United Kingdom

Anat Elhalal

Digital Catapult ( email )

101 Euston Rd
London, NW1 2RA
United Kingdom

Francesca Garcia

Digital Catapult ( email )

101 Euston Rd
London, NW1 2RA
United Kingdom

Libby Kinsey

Digital Catapult ( email )

101 Euston Rd
London, NW1 2RA
United Kingdom

Jakob Mökander

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute ( email )

Luciano Floridi

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute ( email )

1 St. Giles
University of Oxford
Oxford OX1 3PG Oxfordshire, Oxfordshire OX1 3JS
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www.philosophyofinformation.net/about/

University of Bologna- Department of Legal Studies ( email )

Via Zamboni 22
Bologna, Bo 40100
Italy

HOME PAGE: http://www.unibo.it/sitoweb/luciano.floridi/en

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