Creating a powerful Artificial Intelligence (AI) experience for customers and employees can generate numerous rewards for your business. Productivity gains, better user journeys, faster access to large data sets— these are just some of the ways in which AI can turn your business into a powerhouse. Unfortunately, even the best AI implementation can turn into a failure if your company hasn’t delivered safeguards against employee misuse, or external nefarious actors.

To ensure project success, you should form a team of AI ethics experts tasked with overseeing what happens during and after an AI implementation. These experts should focus on three key areas in which ethical decisions must be made: How you handle customer data, how your employees are impacted, and how you guarantee AI stays within its remit. In this post, we’ll examine these areas in more detail.

Data Security and Usage

No matter how intelligent and capable your AI system may be, it’s important that all information be safeguarded against misuse. Even the AI system itself should be quarantined from personal or proprietary data that doesn’t fall into the AI system’s remit. For example: If your AI system is not directly interacting with customers seeking medical advice, it should not have access to customer health information. It’s critical that your AI ethics team work with line of business leaders to determine exactly which information should be accessible to your AI system, and by whom.

Once you’ve earmarked which pertinent data should be accessible, your AI ethics team should work alongside security experts to protect it. This means determining who on your team can access this information, how to protect against unauthorized external access, and how the AI system can protect itself from user manipulation. For example: Hackers use sophisticated phishing techniques to pry customer information away from live customer service agents. Pretending to be a customer, a hacker will trick a service rep into providing personal information about a real consumer, and the rep never knows that they’ve been scammed. Building safeguards against this kind of misuse is critical to your deployment, and your ethics team should master these procedures before a project ever goes live.

Employee Impact

As a company leader, it’s your job to treat employees fairly if and when the day comes when AI makes their roles redundant or takes over most of their tasks in a specific job. As IPsoft has always attested, businesses will yield more long-term value by retaining, retraining and empowering employees with AI versus letting them go because of it.

This concept can initially be difficult to grasp for some financial stakeholders who see a chance to reduce immediate expenditures, without considering the long-term impact on employee retention. Your AI ethics team must effectively communicate the value a hybrid AI-human workforce to all stakeholders. The team must be persuasive, optimistic and, most importantly, driven by data. They must show senior executives that retraining low-level customer service employees, and turning them into product experts who can handle complex issues, will allow the company to build a team of revenue generators and high-level problem solvers.

Smart AI Doesn’t Go Rogue

The smartest AI systems are programmed to follow strict business processes, and never deviate from them. This means they’ll never go rogue and, for example, provide proprietary business data to your competitor. Unlike the AI portrayed in movies and science fiction novels, if an AI system is faced with an issue for which it has not been specifically programmed, it will escalate it to a human colleague.

This is where your team of AI ethics experts comes into play. They should work arm-in-arm with your security team, business process experts and developers to set strict protocols for every AI task. The team should test and retest processes to ensure no loopholes exist. They should provide honest feedback to business decision-makers about what AI should and should not do— especially if AI is automating a process that is heavily regulated by industry compliance procedures.

Your AI ethics team should be as large or as small as your AI project warrants, but don’t take shortcuts. Hire a team substantial enough to provide comprehensive oversight so that every conceivable ethical impasse is examined and adjudicated as quickly as possible. This will guarantee a solid AI investment, and ultimately reap greater rewards than taking a less ethical or secure path.

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