If you are aware of artificial intelligence (AI), you may have heard about the potential for bias and discrimination when AI is used for decision-making. In the workplace, these risks are often a result of the failure of those who design, procure, and implement AI tools to consider AI fairness and ethics.
Start by considering how you hope to leverage AI to advance your mission. A few initial questions can help you define potential uses for AI tools, known as “use cases.” For example, is your organization considering using AI to find an innovative solution to a business problem(s), streamline processes, or reduce human error? What business problems is your organization looking for AI tools to help solve? Does your organization want to identify and avoid purchasing AI tools that may perpetuate bias and discrimination?
Your initial ideas for AI use cases can inform your organization’s business case for Equitable AI. Whether you have an existing AI business case or are starting to develop one, it’s important to consider equitable outcomes for everyone impacted. A business case can help you gain buy-in as you explain to decision-makers why equitable outcomes must be a priority in AI technology implementations. It is important to make sure your leadership has a baseline level of familiarity with AI and is aware of some of the risks related to bias and discrimination before outlining your business case for Equitable AI.
Salesforce Research, in its Special Report: Ethical Leadership and Business, states that expectations for the societal responsibilities of companies keep growing. Businesses can demonstrate ethical leadership by putting purpose at the center of their business, cultivating an organizational culture that prioritizes ethics, diversifying technology development, and empowering the future workforce with equal opportunities.
Tips to Get Started
- Survey the terrain. Use the Guiding Questions below to gain understanding of how AI technologies are being used in your organization, who plays a role in AI related decisions and implements AI tools, and what opportunities and challenges have already been identified.
- Assemble a business case research team. Include three to five people from different areas of the business who can commit time to the effort and have a passion or mandate to help your organization be responsible in its implementation of AI tools. Ensure that your team reflects human diversity—whether based on disability, race, gender, or other identities.
- Document the business challenges you are looking for AI to solve to grow your organization. Examples include increasing customer engagement, improving efficiencies, broadening revenue streams, offering procurement advantages in competitive bidding processes, and increasing pricing power in the marketplace.
- Document AI benefits and risks related to product or service quality. Consider where AI is being integrated into your organization’s products or services. Define known or potential benefits or risks, as well as prospects for AI providing a competitive advantage.
- Document AI benefits and risks related to employment. Consider where AI is being used in talent acquisition, on-boarding, training and development, performance assessment, retention, and other HR applications. Define known or potential benefits or risks, as well as any potential for AI use that could make your organization an attractive employer.
- Document AI benefits and risks related to data management, security, and privacy. Consider the ways in which AI technologies are affecting your organization’s responsible and secure use of data, including sensitive personal information such as disability status.
- Document legal and regulatory concerns. Responsible use of AI may already be implied in existing laws, and new AI laws and regulations are imminent. Outline known or potential legal or regulatory concerns related to your organization’s use of AI.
- Document how AI may impact your brand. Considering your organization’s overall use of AI technologies, document any potential benefits or risks that could affect your organization’s brand image.
- Sketch out a rationale for your Equitable AI initiative. Document your initial thoughts—not yet a formal vision—of who should be involved in AI implementation, anticipated benefits, potential legal or ethical risks, and any other information to help you make your business case.
- Present your business case to leadership. Marshall your business case research team to make your case to your leadership team. Assuming you are successful, you can move on to setting a formal vision for your Equitable AI initiative.
Tips for Ongoing Operations
- Revisit your business case as your organization or use of AI evolves. There will be times when you should revisit the business case. Make this a part of your ongoing governance and risk management related to use of AI in your organization.
- Does your organization already have an individual or department that is accountable for Equitable AI or that coordinates AI technology implementation? Some organizations have “Responsible AI” or “Ethical AI” department led by C-suite officers. Other organizations may distribute this responsibility across multiple departments.
- Who are the humans that are in the loop on internal and external AI implementations? How will you monitor AI technologies to ensure they are being implemented intentionally and responsibly?
- What internal departments are already using or planning to use AI technologies? What are the most important anticipated use cases for AI technology in your organization? An example of one important use case is an AI-enabled candidate screening technology. What are the anticipated benefits for each use case, and what risks have been identified? Which AI technologies are developed internally for use by customers versus those being acquired and implemented for internal employees’ use?
- What external users (i.e., customers, prospective employees, business partners) will access and use the AI technologies your organization is implementing? What are the most important anticipated use cases, along with anticipated benefits and any identified risks?
- What existing or anticipated laws and regulations are applicable to your organization’s current or planned AI implementations? Will AI help your organization better comply with the law or reduce legal costs, or will it expose you to new or increased legal risks?
- What, if any, consideration has been given to benefits and risks for different protected classes of people—including people with disclosed or undisclosed disabilities—who may encounter the AI technologies your organization is using or plans to use? Consider areas related to product or service quality, workplace culture and employee retention, brand image, and regulatory readiness.
- How will your organization’s foundational values effect how you implement AI?
- The Business Case for Equitable AI, PEAT
- The Business Case for AI Ethics: Moving from Theory to Action, All Tech is Human
- AIethicist.org, a global repository of reference and research materials for anyone interested in current discussions on AI ethics and impact of AI on individuals and society.
- EthicalML’s Awesome AI Guidelines, GitHub repository that aims to map the ecosystem of AI guidelines, principles, codes of ethics, standards, and regulations.
- IEEE Ethics in Action, A Call to Action for Businesses Using AI (PDF) , Ethically Aligned Design (EAD) for Businesses (PDF). This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial 4.0 United States.
- World Economic Forum, Ethics by Design: An organizational approach to responsible use of technology, White Paper, 2020.
- Salesforce, How Salesforce Is Building a Culture of Responsible Technology — and Why it Matters, 2020.