As the world reacts to the long-term reality of Covid-19, Nick Rhodes explains the role of ethics and accountability in generating greater trust
If ever a crisis was too good to waste it’s the global wake-up call that is the Covid-19 pandemic. We have suddenly all become armchair (data) scientists.
But even before the pandemic struck, data ethics had already been bubbling-up in many conversations. Now, though, it has taken firm root on the global media’s front and home pages. But from concerns over the expanding role of government, to societal rights versus individual freedoms, to the potential rise of app-enabled surveillance, there are few, if any, easy answers to the questions policymakers are wrestling with.
As we adjust to this new reality, many organisations are realising they need to take accountability for not only their actions, but also those of the machines they employ, the supply chains they trust and their impact on our fragile, connected humanity.
Ethics front and centre
We now find ourselves watching debates unfold, new treatments being tested and experiencing not only how many business continuity plans pass muster, but also how people behave en masse, what they will tolerate and what prompts right human responses.
For example, I live near the Thames in London and my daily walk takes me past a long, narrow footbridge. Social distancing was first requested with one sign, then several, then one-way was introduced, then CCTV warnings appeared and it is now closed, so we all lose the freedom to cross because of a selfish few – this doesn’t seem fair.
More starkly, we may be tempted to use a mobile phone whilst driving even though we know we shouldn’t (morally) and it’s illegal. But it is a law that has been hard to enforce – until recently. In New South Wales, police officers are seeking to capitalise on high-res digital imagery and artificial intelligence to sift the pictures and identify likely offenders for the human-in-the-loop to triage.
A fairer world in future?
This combination aims to protect ourselves from ourselves – and it’s an example of how potential AI-assisted decision-making can make our world fairer.
So where do you start with ethics? Soon. Top down. And with different scenarios in mind...
Ethics - escaping the ivory tower
Read Nick Rhodes' paper which recently featured in Privacy Laws & Business International Report
Lawfulness, fairness and transparency is GDPR’s first data protection principle but how do you evaluate what is “fair”? Nick Rhodes of BAE Systems Applied Intelligence examines these evolving issues and explains how to place ethics front and centre amidst the accelerating data revolution.Find out more
About the author
Nick Rhodes is a business consultant with BAE Systems Applied Intelligence
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