The food waste of bananas created by consumers is only the tip of the iceberg. Even more waste is created at the farm level, where up to 40% of bananas are put to waste. The high percentage of waste at farm level puts an additional strain on the cost/income ratio of farmers.
More than 900 years after the heroic figure Robin Hood set out to steal from the rich and give to the poor, two American entrepreneurs borrowed his name to establish a fintech company that claims to “democratize finance for all”. But the new Robinhood’s claim of ‘democracy’ is on shaky ground. Just as the company can make financial markets accessible to everyone, it can also deny access within a split second. This is what happened when they shut down Gamestop trading on January 28, 2021. Thousands of investors were presented with a fait accompli.
How is it possible that an app that simultaneously breaches privacy principles and that, for the time being, undermines ideals of inclusiveness, is so successful? And why do even people who are usually strong advocates of the very values Clubhouse violates, hop on this latest trend?
The talk about democratizing AI is a clever marketing move. Democracy is an inherently positive term. By suggesting that AI is in everyone’s interest, it is not far off from framing AI as a basic need. But let’s not be fooled: AI is not a basic need. It is a tool, that is, a means to an end, that must be measured by its contribution to human flourishing.
Hyping AI creates ethical challenges on top of the existing ones. Here is how:
1. AI hype does not question the very purpose of AI.
2. AI hype is linked to misleading promises.
3. AI hype directs energy at something that is barely tangible.
4. AI hype exaggerates the capabilities of AI when effectively humans are still doing most of the work.
Facial recognition has come under massive scrutiny. Approaches to using it are quite divided. While China uses the technology routinely and extensively in order to surveil their citizens’ everyday life; San Francisco, notably the ‘home territory’ of those companies driving the development of this type of technology, has banned it last spring.
It shouldn’t take a scandal of the dimensions achieved by Facebook/ Cambridge Analytica to make it clear that we must not use technology blindly without asking ourselves some ethical questions, but incidents like these certainly help to raise awareness on an ever broader scale. Yet, despite an increasing amount of articles calling for integrating ethics into algorithms, it often remains unclear what is effectively meant by ethics. I outline in clear and simple terms how ethics can provide guidance when deciding whether we should adopt digital technologies.
OpenAI states that in order to assure a rigorous design and implementation of this experiment, they need social scientists from a variety of disciplines. The title immediately caught my attention given that the kind of “AI ethics” I am dealing with hinges on an interdisciplinary approach to AI. So, I sat down and spent a couple of hours to read through the whole paper.
Reading a report on “Discrimination, Artificial Intelligence and Algorithmic Decision-Making”, I wondered to what degree algorithmic decision-making could serve to further exacerbate discrimination in already deeply divided societies. If we want AI in general and algorithmic decision-making in particular to flourish and to contribute to the common good rather than promote or exacerbate division, we need to work towards creating societies where all members have genuine freedom and equal opportunities in their choice of lifestyles and identities regardless of their protected characteristics.
KPMG ranked “AI ethicist” as one of the “top 5 AI hires companies need to succeed in 2019”. That’s good news for an ‘old business ethicist’ like me. However, there is no common understanding whether we need AI ethicists in the first place, and whether creating such a profile inevitably leads to “machinewashing”. I address these concerns and argue what it takes to really make AI ethicists a top hire.
In 2014 Chiquita paid their workers in Honduras private health insurance which cost them a total of 1 million USD per year. Quite a lot of money for a company close to bankruptcy. A few weeks ago they wanted to lower the level of health care services. As a result, workers went on strike for more than 40 days. Bananas worth 30 million USD could not be exported. Is this really worth it?