What were the effects of the ethics challenge?

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The objective of the ethics group of the Age of Artificial Intelligence project was to bring accountability issues into the agenda of all Finnish companies engaged in the development and use of AI. To do this, the group decided to launch an artificial intelligence ethics challenge. But how useful was the ethics challenge?

In October 2018, a kick-off event was arranged for organisations interested in the application of artificial intelligence. Support was also provided by publishing material on how to get started: by defining the ethical principles of artificial intelligence.

By March 2019, 67 different-sized Finnish companies, cities and organisations from several different fields had accepted the challenge. About three months after the kick-off the participants were asked how the ethics challenge had affected their activities.

Since accepting the challenge, all respondents had started to define their ethical principles and some (37.5 %) had already completed the task. Clearly, the ethics challenge had been useful as it raised AI-related accountability issues on companies’ agendas in Finland in 2018.

The survey also revealed that almost all participating organisations planned to extend the application of their ethical principles to countries outside Finland. This goes to show that the ethics challenge does make a difference, and has already done so both within and outside Finland.

However, the majority (62 %) of the respondents said they had not yet determined how they were going to apply the AI-related ethical principles. This could be because organisations had not yet had time think about the implementation. Nor was support to implementation provided in the form of extensive background materials.

Companies and organisations in Finland that develop and use artificial intelligence need support to allow them to effectively put their ethical principles into practice. It is likely that the experiences of other companies and organisations will become more important than any background materials in terms of implementation. It is fair to assume that the same results apply in other countries.

If the concept of an ethics challenge was to be launched elsewhere in the world, organisations should be encouraged to both define and implement ethical principles, and relevant support should be offered.

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