Scientists involved with AI should take a ‘Hippocratic oath’ – Digital Journal

The call for an ethical code to be put in place for emergent technologies comes from Dr. Hannah Fry, who is an associate professor at University College London. Dr. Fry says that mathematicians, technologists and scientists working on intelligent machines should be cognizant about how their work might be applied (and where it might end up) and take an oath only to pursue research into technologies that will not harm society (and ideally which are developed for societal good).

Hannah Fry specializes in looking into patterns of human behavior, such as relationships and how we are increasingly reliant on machines making decisions for us. She is also a television presenter, video blogger, and author, and her latest book Hello World, which considers the extent to which we have gradually handed over control of much of our lives to computers, was reviewed by Digital Journal in 2018.

Dr. Fry’s raising of the idea of an ethical pledge comes from an interview with The Guardian. She tells the newspaper: “In medicine, you learn about ethics from day one. In mathematics, it’s a bolt-on at best. It has to be there from day one and at the forefront of your mind in every step you take.”

She laments the lack of ethics in the curriculum of many tech courses and the lack of gender and ethnic diversity within the industry as a whole, which she sees as leading to blind-spots when it comes to considering who sophisticated technologies will be applied. Her she states: “We’ve got all these tech companies filled with very young, very inexperienced, often white boys who have lived in maths departments and computer science departments.”

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The interview and the ethical considerations come ahead of series of public lectures, titled ‘Secrets and Lies’, which take place in December 2019 at the Royal Institution, and which will be broadcast on the BBC. Through three lectures, Dr. Fry will unmask the “hidden numbers, rules and patterns that secretly control our daily lives.” One area of focus is a warning that our unwavering faith in figures can lead to disaster when we get the sums wrong.

The Royal Institution Christmas lectures began in 1825 and have featured many major scientists, from Michael Faraday to Carl Sagan.


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