News  |    |  November 11, 2019

AI Ethics is All About Power

News article by Khari Johnson.
Published in VentureBeat.

At the Common Good in the Digital Age tech conference recently held in Vatican City, Pope Francis urged Facebook executives, venture capitalists, and government regulators to be wary of the impact of AI and other technologies. “If mankind’s so-called technological progress were to become an enemy of the common good, this would lead to an unfortunate regression to a form of barbarism dictated by the law of the strongest,” he said.

In a related but contextually different conversation, this summer Joy Buolamwini testified before Congress with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) that multiple audits found facial recognition technology generally works best on white men and worst on women of color.

What these two events have in common is their relationship to power dynamics in the AI ethics debate.

Arguments about AI ethics can wage without mention of the word “power,” but it’s often there just under the surface. In fact, it’s rarely the direct focus, but it needs to be. Power in AI is like gravity, an invisible force that influences every consideration of ethics in artificial intelligence.

Power provides the means to influence which use cases are relevant; which problems are priorities; and who the tools, products, and services are made to serve. [ . . . ]

This article is part of a VentureBeat special issue. Read the full series here: Power in AI.