ETAIROS signal post / November 2022
Ethics is critical in making AI business – should it also be critical element in Finland´s AI 4.0 programme and is it?
The AI Finland 2022 event, held on 1st of November 2022, brought Finland’s Artificial Intelligence 4.0 programme on the table. AI 4.0 programme is based on the national AI strategy of Finland, which has been created in 2017. The strategy lists three key areas where AI will have transformative impact:
1) Companies are leaders in the application of artificial intelligence,
2) AI facilitating a more efficient public sector and
3) AI will revolutionise society in all sectors.
In other words, AI will start having an impact everywhere. In practice, the Artificial Intelligence 4.0 programme hopes to accelerate business digitalisation in Finland, and to turn Finland into a winner in the twin transition (digitalization + sustainability). In 2030, according to the programme, Finnish industry will be clean, efficient and digital, delivering competitive solutions that increase customers’ carbon handprint  for a global, uniformly regulated market. The introduction of the programme´s final report states that “Digitalisation will be utilised in the promotion of industrial productivity and international competitiveness, and ethically sustainable solutions that accelerate the twin transition will be increasingly offered to the global market.”
These are great targets, but how about the ethical aspects concretely? Twin transition targets highlight green transition and responsible innovations, but ethics is not a key issue in these areas. The carbon footprint does not yet tell us anything about, for example, the democratisation of processes, the autonomy of people interacting with the AI system, or the traceability and explainability of algorithms. Thus, the question remains how to ensure transparent and responsible AI development and business in boosting the business and twin transition solutions?
According to AI 4.0 programme the national AI targets focus on purely business acceleration and environmental sustainability. Responsibility including social and ethical implications did not rise to the top goals of the programme. However, for instance in VTT`s Strong, Stronger, Responsible -seminar in October 2022 the clear message – from business – was that there is no business in the future without responsibility, which includes more than consideration of the environment.
Ethics is an essential part of responsibility
Ethics is an essential part of responsibility. We can look deeper into responsibility by listing the focus areas of Responsible Business Alliance. The recent focus areas are: COVID-19, Trafficked & Forced Labour, Workplace Well-Being, Chemical Management, Environmental Sustainability, Public Procurement, Indirect Spend, Diversity and Gender, Student Workers, Working Hours, Stakeholder Engagement and Auditing. With responsible AI we may endorse these focus areas by creating AI systems that strengthen for instance the identification systems of forced labour or stakeholder engagement. This is an instance of using AI for ethically good purposes.
Another facet relates to how AI systems are designed and implemented, so that it honours human rights, inclusiveness and transparency. It is a challenge to keep ethics in mind when coding algorithms, but it is extremely important when making responsible business out of AI. Obviously, the concepts of ethics have no immediate relevance in technical design, in the sense that the language and concepts of ethics can’t directly generate a functioning computational system. Granted this, it means also that questions of ethics of technology can’t be solved purely within technical discourse. This highlights the importance of generating dialogue between the discourses to achieve a proper synthesis.
Responsible AI is critical for business and society
There are competitive advantages for businesses and organizations committed to sound ethics and responsible AI. Of course, this commitment needs to be genuine and integrated into the organizational culture. We need a culture of responsibility to ensure ethical operations and production. These advantages have the potential to build long-term impact both for businesses and society: avoiding unconscious and harmful bias, verifiable AI results, protecting security and privacy of data, contributing to organizational transparency and building trust among the stakeholders.
Responsible AI has become critical for business and society. Organizations, which are developing AI need to learn to generate value without inflicting harm or unwanted consequences for society, and this is not trivial. Everyone coding AI algorithms needs to understand this. Accelerating businesses should go hand-in-hand with accountability for their social impact. Decisions made today may contribute to latent cumulative effects, which manifest decades from now or in the far future. That is why also AI business should be responsible, also socially and ethically, not just environmentally.
We call for keeping the ethics of AI explicitly on the agenda for AI in Finland.
While ethical questions of AI are almost by definition difficult, they can’t be set aside from explicit consideration. Facing the questions already on a strategic level gives business and society a backbone and a vision for the future. We call for keeping the ethics of AI explicitly on the agenda for AI in Finland.
Authors: Nina Wessberg, Nadezhda Gotcheva and Antero Karvonen
 The carbon handprint describes the positive climate impacts of a product. E.G. Carbon handprint – definition and examples | VTT (vttresearch.com)