Maintaining a Balance between AI Pragmatism and Ethics

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  • 5 1Votes
  • 29 Aug 2023 @ 3:25
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The collective effort should be towards maintaining a balance between AI pragmatism and ethics, as it is not only possible, but also desirable and beneficial for society.

It is not uncommon to find ourselves at a crossroad, with two paths of equal importance stretching out before us. One path leads to a world of practicality, efficiency, and innovation, while the other leads to a world of ethics, values, and accountability. While it may seem obvious that the right thing to do is the preferred choice, choosing between two options with similar outcomes can be challenging.

Social media and technology companies frequently face the challenge of balancing conflicting societal expectations. For instance, in 2019, during the Hong Kong protests, Apple removed the app from its store. While the app aided protesters in tracking police movements and avoiding arrest and police brutality, Apple argued that permitting the app could escalate violence.

During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, social media companies grappled with the challenge of upholding neutrality and ethical standards as conspiracy theories and misinformation proliferated on their platforms. The dilemma was whether to censor false information or to allow unrestricted communication. The companies faced criticism for not censoring conspiracy theories, and when they did act, they were accused of suppressing free speech. It was a delicate balancing act between allowing the free flow of information and preventing the spread of false information

Understanding AI Pragmatism and Ethics

The conflict between ethical responsibility and technological innovation is more prominent in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), where there is a desire to push the boundaries of what is possible while also weighing the ethical consequences. Balancing these two approaches, known as AI pragmatism and AI ethics, can be challenging but is desirable and beneficial for society.  In reality, it is not a binary choice. With AI, it is crucial to find a middle ground between AI pragmatism and ethics.

AI is a powerful and influential technology that is transforming various domains of human activity. It offers numerous opportunities and benefits, but also poses challenges and risks that must be addressed. Ensuring that AI systems are designed and used in ways that are both practical and ethical is a complex challenge. It requires careful consideration and collaboration among various stakeholders to balance the competing demands of efficiency, innovation, competitiveness, and economic growth on one hand, and the moral values, principles, and norms that guide human actions and interactions. 

The Pros and Cons of AI Pragmatism

AI pragmatism focuses on the practical aspects of AI systems, such as their functionality, performance, and profitability. This approach aims to solve real-world problems and create new possibilities using AI technologies. AI pragmatism can help overcome limitations and enable innovative design of AI systems.

AI pragmatism is an approach that focuses on the practical aspects of AI systems, such as their functionality, performance, reliability, usability, and profitability. AI pragmatism aims to solve real-world problems, enhance human capabilities, create new possibilities, and generate economic value by using AI technologies. 

AI pragmatism can also help overcome the limitations of existing governance mechanisms and enable ethical design of AI systems. According to one study, AI pragmatism can provide a flexible and adaptable framework to address the ethical issues that arise in different contexts and scenarios.

However, AI pragmatism also has its drawbacks. By focusing on the practical aspects of AI systems, AI pragmatism may neglect the moral values, principles, and norms that guide human actions and interactions. It may create ethical dilemmas, social impacts, human rights violations, and other negative consequences by using AI technologies. AI pragmatism may also give disproportionate attention and resources to AI technologies over other social issues. For instance, some researchers have criticized the hype and optimism surrounding AI technologies and questioned their relevance and significance for addressing the fundamental challenges of humanity.

The Pros and Cons of AI Ethics

AI ethics is an approach that focuses on the moral aspects of AI systems, such as their values, principles, norms, responsibilities, and consequences. AI ethics aims to promote the common good, protect human dignity, ensure justice and fairness, and foster trust and accountability by using AI technologies.

AI ethics can help raise awareness, stimulate dialogue, provide guidance, and inspire action by addressing the ethical issues related to AI systems. According to this study, incorporating pragmatist ethics in the applying ethical consideration can help to avoid certain pitfalls in AI ethics and provide a conceptual framework to address the ethical issues related to AI systems.

However, AI ethics also has its limitations. By focusing on the moral aspects of AI systems, AI ethics may be too idealistic, rigid, prescriptive, or restrictive for the dynamic and diverse nature of AI systems and their contexts. It may create ambiguity, inconsistency, impracticality, and ineffectiveness by using moral values, principles, and norms. AI ethics may also be subject to criticism or manipulation by different stakeholders with different interests or agendas.

The Benefits of Balancing AI Pragmatism and Ethics

Given the pros and cons of both AI pragmatism and ethics, it is imperative to achieve a balance between them. One way is to consider both the practical and ethical aspects of AI when designing and using AI systems. This means considering not only the functionality and performance of AI systems but also their values and consequences. By balancing the practical and moral aspects of AI systems, we can achieve both practical and moral goals, such as creating safe, reliable, useful, and responsible AI systems that can serve human needs and values. This balance can benefit society by ensuring that AI technologies are used in ways that promote the common good while also driving innovation and growth.

The Recommendations for Achieving a Balance between AI Pragmatism and Ethics

Achieving a balance between AI pragmatism and ethics can be accomplished by adopting a pluralistic, contextualized, participatory, and adaptive approach to AI ethics. A pluralistic approach recognizes the diversity of moral values, principles, and norms that exist in diverse cultures, societies, and domains, and seeks to accommodate them in a respectful and inclusive way. A contextualized approach acknowledges the complexity and variability of the situations and scenarios in which AI systems are designed and used and adapts to them in a flexible and appropriate way.

A participatory approach involves the collaboration and consultation of various stakeholders, such as developers, users, regulators, experts, and affected parties, in the design and use of AI systems. This empowers them to have a voice and a choice in the process. An adaptive approach responds to the changes and challenges that emerge in the development and deployment of AI systems. It revises and improves them in a continuous and iterative way. By adopting these approaches, we can ensure that AI systems are designed and used in ways that balance practicality with ethical considerations.

Towards AI Pragmatic Ethics

In our quest to strike a balance between AI pragmatism and ethics, we must not limit ourselves to viewing both approaches as mutually exclusive. Instead, our focus should be on exploring a framework that incorporates ethical considerations right from the design and deployment stages of AI systems. This framework must consider the practicality and usefulness of AI models and their impact on society.

Pragmatic ethics can serve as a bridge between AI pragmatism and ethics. The essence of pragmatic ethics is that an idea must be practical, workable, beneficial, and useful to be considered true and meaningful. Consequently, AI pragmatic ethics is an approach to designing AI models that foster innovation and benefit society.

The implementation of the AI pragmatic ethics approach in the design and deployment of AI systems is not only feasible but also imperative if society is to reap the numerous benefits that AI offers. There is no denying that both AI pragmatism and ethics have their respective advantages and disadvantages. However, adopting an AI pragmatic ethics approach can create an enabling environment for the development of AI systems that yield positive outcomes and are socially beneficial and useful.

AI Disclaimer: The post was produced in assistance with AI but checked and approved by the author.
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