Guidelines  |  ,   |  March 25, 2019

Ethically Aligned Design, First Edition. A Vision for Prioritizing Human Well-being with Autonomous and Intelligent Systems

Guidelines produced by the IEEE Global Initiative on Ethics of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems. The most comprehensive, crowd-sourced global treatise regarding the Ethics of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems available today [Jan 2, 2020]. 294 pages.


As the use and impact of autonomous and intelligent systems (A/IS) become pervasive, we need to establish societal and policy guidelines in order for such systems to remain human-centric, serving humanity’s values and ethical principles. These systems must be developed and should operate in a way that is beneficial to people and the environment, beyond simply reaching functional goals and addressing technical problems. This approach will foster the heightened level of trust between people and technology that is needed for its fruitful use in our daily lives.

To be able to contribute in a positive, non-dogmatic way, we, the techno-scientific communities, need to enhance our self-reflection. We need to have an open and honest debate around our explicit or implicit values, including our imaginary around so-called “Artificial Intelligence” and the institutions, symbols, and representations it generates.

Ultimately, our goal should be eudaimonia, a practice elucidated by Aristotle that defines human well-being, both at the individual and collective level, as the highest virtue for a society. Translated roughly as “flourishing”, the benefits of eudaimonia begin with conscious contemplation, where ethical considerations help us define how we wish to live.

Whether our ethical practices are Western (e.g., Aristotelian, Kantian), Eastern (e.g., Shinto, 墨家/School of Mo, Confucian), African (e.g., Ubuntu), or from another tradition, honoring holistic definitions of societal prosperity is essential versus pursuing one-dimensional goals of increased productivity or gross domestic product (GDP). Autonomous and intelligent systems should prioritize and have as their goal the explicit honoring of our inalienable fundamental rights and dignity as well as the increase of human flourishing and environmental sustainability.

The goal of The IEEE Global Initiative on Ethics of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems (“The IEEE Global Initiative”) is that Ethically Aligned Design will provide pragmatic and directional insights and recommendations, serving as a key reference for the work of technologists, educators and policymakers in the coming years.

Ethically Aligned Design sets forth scientific analysis and resources, high-level principles, and actionable recommendations. It offers specific guidance for standards, certification, regulation or legislation for design, manufacture, and use of A/IS that provably aligns with and improves holistic societal well-being. [ . . . ]

IEEE Global Initiative released Ethically Aligned Design, Version 1 (EADv1) as a Request for Input in December of 2016 and received over two hundred pages of in-depth feedback about the draft. They subsequently released Ethically Aligned Design, Version 2 (EADv2) in December 2017 and received over three hundred pages of in-depth feedback about the draft. Since that time, over one thousand people from the realms of business, academia and policy helped write, edit, and review Ethically Aligned Design, First Edition.