The AI Ethicist’s Dilemma: Fighting Big Tech by Supporting Big Tech

Sætra, H.S., Coeckelbergh, M. & Danaher, J. The AI ethicist’s dilemma: fighting Big Tech by supporting Big Tech. AI Ethics (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s43681-021-00123-7

13 Pages Posted: 17 Jun 2021 Last revised: 15 Dec 2021

See all articles by Henrik Skaug Sætra

Henrik Skaug Sætra

University of Oslo - Department of Informatics

Mark Coeckelbergh

University of Vienna

John Danaher

University of Galway - School of Law

Date Written: June 18, 2021

Abstract

Assume that a researcher uncovers a major problem with how social media are currently used. What sort of challenges arise when they must subsequently decide whether or not to use social media to create awareness about this problem? This situation routinely occurs as ethicists navigate choices regarding how to effect change and potentially remedy the problems they uncover. In this article, challenges related to new technologies and what is often referred to as ‘Big Tech’ are emphasized. We present what we refer to as the AI ethicist’s dilemma, which emerges when an AI ethicist has to consider how their own success in communicating an identified problem is associated with a high risk of decreasing the chances of successfully remedying the problem. We examine how the ethicist can resolve the dilemma and arrive at ethically sound paths of action through combining three ethical theories: virtue ethics, deontological ethics and consequentialist ethics. The article concludes that attempting to change the world of Big Tech only using the technologies and tools they provide will at times prove to be counter-productive, and that political and other more disruptive avenues of action should also be seriously considered by ethicists who want to effect long-term change. Both strategies have advantages and disadvantages, and a combination might be desirable to achieve these advantages and mitigate some of the disadvantages discussed.

Keywords: Ethics, Dilemma, Big Tech, Artificial intelligence, Big Tech

Suggested Citation

Sætra, Henrik Skaug and Coeckelbergh, Mark and Danaher, John, The AI Ethicist’s Dilemma: Fighting Big Tech by Supporting Big Tech (June 18, 2021). Sætra, H.S., Coeckelbergh, M. & Danaher, J. The AI ethicist’s dilemma: fighting Big Tech by supporting Big Tech. AI Ethics (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s43681-021-00123-7, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3862244

Henrik Skaug Sætra (Contact Author)

University of Oslo - Department of Informatics ( email )

Norway

Mark Coeckelbergh

University of Vienna ( email )

John Danaher

University of Galway - School of Law ( email )

Newcastle Road
Galway
Ireland

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