Thursday, February 7, 2019

Ethics in the AI, Machine Learning, Data Science, etc Era

Ethics is one of those topics that everyone has a slightly different definition or view of what it means. The Oxford english dictionary defines ethics as, 'Moral principles that govern a person's behaviour or the conducting of an activity'.

As you can imagine this topic can be difficult to discuss and has many, many different aspects.

In the era of AI, Machine Learning, Data Science, etc the topic of Ethics is finally becoming an important topic. Again there are many perspective on this. I'm not going to get into these in this blog post, because if I did I could end up writing a PhD dissertation on it. 

But if you do work in the area of AI, Machine Learning, Data Science, etc you do need to think about the ethical aspects of what you do. For most people, you will be working on topics where ethics doesn't really apply. For example, examining log data, looking for trends, etc

But when you start working of projects examining individuals and their behaviours then you do need to examine the ethical aspects of such work. Everyday we experience adverts, web sites, marketing, etc that has used AI, Machine Learning and Data Science to delivery certain product offerings to us.

Just because we can do something, doesn't mean we should do it.

One particular area that I will not work on is Location Based Advertising. Imagine walking down a typical high street with lots and lots of retail stores. Your phone vibrates and on the screen there is a message. The message is a special offer or promotion for one of the shops a short distance ahead of you. You are being analysed. Your previous buying patterns and behaviours are being analysed, Your location and direction of travel is being analysed. Some one, or many AI applications are watching you. This is not anything new and there are lots of examples of this from around the world.
But what if this kind of Location Based Advertising was taken to another level. What if the shops had cameras that monitored the people walking up and down the street. What if those cameras were analysing you, analysing what clothes you are wearing, analysing the brands you are wearing, analysing what accessories you have, analysing your body language, etc. They are trying to analyse if you are the kind of person they want to sell to. They then have staff who will come up to you, as you are walking down the street, and will have customised personalised special offers on products in their store, just for you.

See the segment between 2:00 and 4:00 in this video.  This gives you an idea of what is possible.

Are you Ok with this?

As an AI, Machine Learning, Data Science professional, are you Ok with this?

The technology exists to make this kind of Location Based Marketing possible. This will be an increasing ethical consideration over the coming years for those who work in the area of AI, Machine Learning, Data Science, etc

Just because we can, doesn't mean we should!

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