When Does A.I. become Unethical?

Artificial intelligence, or AI, has an increasing presence in our lives. Computer algorithms determine which shows to watch, and digital personal assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa, are able to deliver information almost instantaneously. AI has provided added convenience for millions of people, but at what cost?

There has been some questioning as to what constitutes ethical use of AI in today’s age. Its increasing prevalence this past decade requires closer inspection into what AI is really doing and what personal data it is gathering.

Seemingly benign applications of AI such as Youtube or Netflix’s recommended page can harbor grave consequences. These types of AI-involved applications give media companies the ability to filter the type of media we watch. While services such as Youtube and Netflix do not limit their search functions, it is understood that the recommended pages of streaming and video services greatly influence what users watch. Now, you may ask, why should I care about this? 

Let’s take Youtube as an example. Everyone would prefer the personalized convenience of seeing videos that they would enjoy in their recommended pages rather than manually searching for every video. However, we have to be cognizant that this filtering does not become overbearing. An algorithm deciding what viewers end up watching can lead to an array of problematic effects. It can be something minor, such as an inconvenience from being given unrelated results due to a failure in the algorithm. However, the algorithm can also be extremely dangerous; it can filter content unreasonably by pushing biased and misleading content. We all need to be conscious and wary of how these services’ algorithms are operating, so that we can intentionally make our own decisions.

All of these advances in artificial intelligence have raised many questions on how to deal with these issues. However, many of the questions about these applications can be consolidated into one main question: What is more important, privacy and freedom, or convenience? And where does the threshold lie where gathering too much data becomes a violation of privacy? This is a question we will all have to ask ourselves, as AI and data gathering are on a seemingly irreversible path to only become exponentially more important in the coming days.

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