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  • Writer's picturePamela Isom

Ethical AI Governance and Equity

Big data technology and data science
As we close this 4 th of July 2023 week, Equity is on my mind. I have had the pleasure of speaking on this subject quite extensively and recently, during the AI-Transitions conference, I was given an opportunity to elaborate on the association of AI, ethics, and equity. I also support clients that are preparing to release models that could save lives and prevent societal harm if used appropriately, or the opposite is a possibility without the appropriate safeguards. Some are developing educational materials on AI and in particular, skills building for the workforce. Kudos for recognizing and moving forward in this direction. While AI was introduced to me at an early career phase as expert systems and rules-based processing in the materials management and manufacturing arena, my passion for equity stems from childhood. I will expound on that in a moment but first I want us to be mindful of the lasting impacts of bias (good and bad), and appreciate that ethical practices identify and root out harms and amplifies fairness and equality.

During my first competition (aka try-outs) in the youth band, I had practiced extensively, mastered the music, and expected to shine on the day of the competition. Instead, I ranked closer to the bottom of the list of competitors after I became so overcome with fear that I lost control over my breathing and could not play my instrument. I heard controversial comments like “Sure you practiced … you performed just as we expected … better you than me”. In this example, fear and anxiety were obstacles that manifested as barriers at that moment. And the comments that I heard are examples of historical, human, and systemic bias that can infiltrate algorithmic systems today. With guidance from my Mom, I learned to face fear then push it, along with anxiety, out of the way and focus on succeeding at the task at hand. I learned to recognize and ignore noise. I continued to participate in try-outs and consistently landed top performer.
Equity in and through AI is all about using technology and Data for the right reasons - to identify and replace barriers with equal opportunity for the benefit of humanity and society at large. Equity uplifts. Equity is an outcome of strong ethical AI governance.
• Disadvantaged communities should be given opportunities to experience AI and gain an appreciation of the relevance to their situation including risks. Pronouncing that AI will transform is simply not enough, and too often this opportunity benefits the affluent.
• AI can be utilized to shrink inequality if better insights are drawn on how biases can be amplified through what appears, on the surface, to be the best, fault proof solutions. This safeguarding ability is a needed and coveted skill that offers better identification of safety and harms potential and prevention strategies. I cannot stress enough the importance of education and training on this subject for the workforce and through STEM and STEAM programs.
• Early warning detection systems and community resilience can be strengthened using AI, the evolution of digital twinning and spatial technologies, anchoring communities to safety in a manner that is relevant.
• Ethical AI Governance promotes fairness and prevents barriers from hardening, providing a solid ecosystem for sustainable, equitable outcomes that respect civil rights.
Equity afforded me the opportunity to compete again. There were no barriers to access, my first experience was not held against me through some obscure, irrelevant policy, and each participant had a consistent set of rules. I have faced some challenges in my lifetime, of course, but this is an experience that has shaped my future and my positivity when it comes to technology, our youth, society and even entrepreneurship. Let’s continue with ethical AI governance for equitable outcomes that truly benefit all.

Equity speaks.

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Pamela K Isom Digital Innovator & AI Ethicist CEO & Founder, IsAdvice & Consulting Former Director, AI & Technology, U.S. Dept. of Energy

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