Keynote at South African Conference for AI Research: ‘Artificial Intelligence and Ethical Disruption’

SACAIR 2020 is the second international conference focussed on Artificial Intelligence hosted by the Centre for AI Research (CAIR), a South African distributed research network that was established in 2011 with the aim of building world class Artificial Intelligence research capacity in South Africa. The theme for this year’s event is ‘AI transforming Humanity’ and will focus on the following broad areas of Artificial Intelligence: Machine Learning, Knowledge Representation and Reasoning, Applications of AI, AI for Ethics and Society, and AI for Development and Social Good.

Artificial Intelligence is an ethically disruptive technology: it challenges the very ethical concepts and frameworks with which it can be evaluated itself. AI systems bring radically new human-technology relations: rather than merely being ‘used’, they develop forms of ‘agency’ of their own, performing cognitive and physical tasks, and creating a new, technological environment. Moreover, they typically work on the human mind: AI interferes with human interpretations, decision-making, and creativity. Concepts like agency, responsibility, and intentionality, therefore, need to be reinterpreted in order to develop an adequate ethical approach to AI. In this lecture, I will address this ethical disruption in three steps. First, I will analyze the new human-technology relations that AI brings: how do digital technologies affect human practices, decisions, and interpretive frameworks? And how do new, hybrid forms of intentionality emerge from this, in which human and technological intentionalities are connected in novel ways? Second, I will investigate how these new human-technology relations challenge central ethical concepts and frameworks. How to understand the influence of digital technologies on moral actions, decision-making and value frameworks? Finally, I will explain how the approach of ‘guidance ethics’ can be helpful to address the ethical challenges that AI brings.

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