Articles  |  ,   |  July 17, 2019

Global AI Ethics: A Review of the Social Impacts and
Ethical Implications of Artificial Intelligence

Article by Alexa Hagerty and Igor Rubinov. 27 pages.


The ethical implications and social impacts of artificial intelligence have become topics of compelling interest to industry, researchers in academia, and the public. However, current analyses of AI in a global context are biased toward perspectives held in the U.S., and limited by a lack of research, especially outside the U.S. and Western Europe.

This article summarizes the key findings of a literature review of recent social science scholarship on the social impacts of AI and related technologies in five global regions. Our team of social science researchers reviewed more than 800 academic journal articles and monographs in over a dozen languages.

Our review of the literature suggests that AI is likely to have markedly different social impacts depending on geographical setting. Likewise, perceptions and understandings of AI are likely to be profoundly shaped by local cultural and social context.

Recent research in U.S. settings demonstrates that AI-driven technologies have a pattern of entrenching social divides and exacerbating social inequality, particularly among historically marginalized groups. Our literature review indicates that this pattern exists on a global scale, and suggests that low- and middle-income countries may be more vulnerable to the negative social impacts of AI and less likely to benefit from the attendant gains.

We call for rigorous ethnographic research to better understand the social impacts of AI around the world. Global, on-the-ground research is particularly critical to identify AI systems that may amplify social inequality in order to mitigate potential harms. Deeper understanding of the social impacts of AI in diverse social settings is a necessary precursor to the development, implementation, and monitoring of responsible and beneficial AI technologies, and forms the basis for meaningful regulation of these technologies.