Australia launches consultation on AI ethics

By on 10/04/2019 | Updated on 24/09/2020
AI can be intelligent – but how to make it ethical? Image courtesy: Gerd Altmann/Pixabay).

The Australian government has launched a national consultation to gather feedback on proposals for an ethical framework to guide the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the coming years.

The consultation centres around a discussion paper, Artificial Intelligence: Australia’s Ethics Framework, by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s (CSIRO) digital innovation wing, Data61.

In it, CSIRO identifies key principles and measures that can be put in place during the development of AI systems to retain “the well-being of Australians as the top priority.”

Asimov, updated

Speaking at the launch on April 5, minister for industry, science and technology Karen Andrews said: “The impact of AI is likely to be widespread and we have an imperative to ensure the best possible outcomes; while the community needs to be able to trust that AI applications are safe, secure and reliable,” Computer World reported.

The CSIRO report asks for feedback on eight core principles which it says will mitigate the risks that accompany AI’s “enormous potential to improve society.”

The eight key principles identified are: the generation of net benefits; doing no harm; regulatory and legal compliance; privacy protection; fairness; transparency and explainability; contestability; and accountability.

All eight principles should be considered throughout the design and use of an AI system, the report says, and “should be seen as goals that define whether an AI system is operating ethically.”

Ethical toolkit

CSIRO goes on to outline an AI ethical toolkit with nine suggested methods, including impact assessments, best practice guidelines, industry standards, and collaboration to help practitioners put the ethical goals into practice.

“The principles and toolkit items provide practical, accessible approaches to harness the best that AI can offer Australia, while addressing the risks,” the paper concludes.

CSIRO chief executive Dr Larry Marshall told itnews: “The draft framework contextualises these age-old ethical considerations in the light of new technology, so everyone can have a say in inventing the future we need so our children can keep pace with emerging technologies like AI.”

Its findings, along with the results of the consultation – which runs until May 31 – will inform the government’s approach to developing a national AI ethics framework.

Oz tech roundup

Meanwhile, The Australian Digital Council has published a report highlighting the main data and digital transformation initiatives taking place across the country.

The State of the Data and Digital Nation’ provides an overview of technology projects at both national and local levels, with 89 case studies mapped and grouped into six categories. They include innovative schemes such as data sharing and release reforms, a cyber security strategy, and an app allowing users in Sydney to check local fuel prices in real time.

About Natalie Leal

Natalie is a freelance journalist whose work has been published by The Sun Online, The Guardian, Novara Media, Positive News, and Welfare Weekly, among others. She also writes reports and case studies on global business trends for behavioural insights agency, Canvas8. Prior to working as a journalist Natalie worked for the public sector in social services for several years. She switched careers in 2013 after winning a fully funded NCTJ in a national writing competition. She holds a Masters degree in social anthropology from Sussex University where she specialised in processes of social change and international conflict and reconciliation processes.

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