Conference Papers  |    |  June 8, 2020

“This is Just a Prototype”: How Ethics Are Ignored in Software Startup-Like Environments

Conference paper by Ville Vakkuri, Kai-Kristian Kemell, Marianna Jantunen and Pekka Abrahamsson.
Presented at the 21st International Conference on Agile Software Development, XP 2020.


Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions are becoming increasingly common in software development endeavors, and consequently exert a growing societal influence as well. Due to their unique nature, AI based systems influence a wide range of stakeholders with or without their consent, and thus the development of these systems necessitates a higher degree of ethical consideration than is currently carried out in most cases. Various practical examples of AI failures have also highlighted this need. However, there is only limited research on methods and tools for implementing AI ethics in software development, and we currently have little knowledge of the state of practice. In this study, we explore the state of the art in startup-like environments where majority of the AI software today gets developed. Based on a multiple case study, we discuss the current state of practice and highlight issues. The cases underline the complete ignorance of ethical consideration in AI endeavors. We also outline existing good practices that can already support the implementation of AI ethics, such as documentation and error handling.