Study Tackles Ethics Associated with Artificial Intelligence Adoption

Last updated on April 26th, 2024 at 03:01 pm

Artificial intelligence technologies can help create a more stable economy, increase job accessibility, or enhance safety in the workplace.

Or they could do the opposite.

Responsible development of artificial intelligence, or AI, is key. This is the subject of a research project undertaken by the Georgia institute of Technology’s Ethics, Technology and Human Interaction Center. By understanding the potential implications of artificial intelligence in manufacturing, business owners, lawmakers, researchers, and workers can promote its positives — and ward off the negatives.

The study is a component of Georgia Artificial Intelligence in Manufacturing (Georgia AIM), a 5-year, $65 million federal grant working to connect AI with the state’s manufacturing community. The study’s findings can help inform regulatory and policy frameworks, industry guidelines, and overall public use of artificial intelligence.

It’s a big topic with big implications, writes Georgia Tech postdoctoral researcher John P. Nelson, the lead author of a recent research brief on the project.

“The technologies developed could be applied to enhance worker autonomy and earnings, empower and revitalize rural and marginalized communities, and strengthen flexibility and resilience,” explained the center’s team in the 2023 policy brief. “Or, they could be used to replace workers, enhance the dominance of large firms, cut corners in production systems, reduce the share of value-added captured by labor, and facilitate worker surveillance and control.”

Georgia AIM is composed of established projects across the state, leveraging contacts and expertise to connect educators, businesses, entrepreneurs, and members of the workforce with AI. Some projects within Georgia AIM work in K-12 education to increase access to STEM technologies and support programs to increase students’ and teachers’ technical knowledge. Others connect with regional commissions and economic development experts to increase AI access among communities not typically represented in manufacturing spaces — for example, veterans, women-owned companies, or business owners of color. Georgia AIM community engagement projects are also working with new businesses and established manufacturers to increase their knowledge and use of artificial intelligence.

The research team includes Nelson, Associate Professor Justin Biddle, Professor Philip Shapira, and doctoral candidate Olajide Olugbade of the School of Public Policy in Georgia Tech’s Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts. The study incorporates a variety of data-collection methods, such as in-person interviews, group discussions, workshops, and reports. The team is also working with experts to investigate the effects of novel technologies on the natural environment, cybersecurity, and economic development.

For example, Nelson and his colleagues have conducted interviews with Georgia AIM project directors Donna Ennis and Aaron Stebner, as well as more than 20 other partners in the project.

The research team also conducted group interviews during a meeting of Georgia AIM partners in the fall of 2023. At the event, attendees gathered at tables to discuss their definitions of equity, how they defined participation in Georgia’s manufacturing economy, and what effective equity strategies might look like.

The goal, Nelson said, is to develop a framework to help guide the thoughtful, equitable development of artificial intelligence into the future.

According to the research team’s brief, this is not a straightforward task given the many interested parties involved in AI development and use. “The pressures of global competition encourage both public and private sectors to pursue fast-track approaches that downplay risks,” the study’s authors conclude. “Yet the protection and advancement of public values in AI adoption is not a task only for policymakers or civil society leaders — managers in firms need to reflect carefully on how they will implement AI technologies and how they will generate value for their customers, suppliers, employees, and communities.”

Read the full brief.