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Accelerate Managing Director Kerry Sheehan calls for PR innovators to advise on ethical AI builds

Kerry, chair of the global AIinPR panel at the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, said ‘PR’s reputation is ticking if it cannot get a handle on AI ethics and advise on AI builds and deployments’.

Kerry issued the strong call to the industry, saying: “PR is in a dangerous place if it doesn’t take AI ethics seriously, advising on AI builds and deployments.”

Recently we have seen the UK exams algorithm court controversy, closely followed local authorities across the world moving to withdraw algorithms making high consequence welfare decisions and US police agencies stop using facial recognition.

We are seeing too many organisations and businesses rushing to have AI systems built without having the skills to brief or manage the project adequately.

Added to this, many are without PRs with the highest level of AI knowledge, providing effective scrutiny on the systems as they are built and deployed, ensuring they remain ‘safe’ and reputations and trust in tact; and, as a result, the potential to cause harm to the end receiver is limited.

Technology is likely to continue to outpace any regulation on artificial intelligence. Therefore, public relations practitioners must be in the driving seat to advise organisations, businesses and brands on ethical AI builds, holding them to account with the highest level of scrutiny on AI in PR ethics before any deployments of AI are sanctioned.

This is the role of agencies such as Accelerate and PR leads. It includes ensuring data used for artificial intelligence is the right data and ethically sourced, it’s unbiased as possible and, importantly, assumption systems are not built in.

It also means PRs ensuring all AI build teams are fully diverse in all ways and I advocate going one step further and ensuring collaboration by representation of stakeholders on all AI builds.

PRs role as reputation guardians is in keeping organisations ‘safe’. In its ethical role in artificial intelligence systems this means causing no deliberate harm and discrimination to the employees, stakeholders and publics who will served by the AI-enabled services, tools, products and platforms being deployed and trust is built and maintained.

Ethics itself is ordinarily a challenge. Add in data and technology for artificial intelligence, and the challenges that brings, and we have bigger issues on our hands. This should sound as an alarm call on PR stepping up and being at the forefront of AI ethics.

In addition, there are already AI systems out there masquerading as AI systems, which are in reality simple expert systems and decision trees and have no AI, but which are poorly crafted.Sometimes they are rushed and have had limited scrutiny applied to their decision matrices and have caused discrimination and harm, sometimes high profile.

What’s worse, and as we regularly advise our clients at Accelerate, is they can be sold, often at extreme prices, to an organisations and businesses which do not have the technical or ethics knowledge to see elements of ‘snake oil’ being peddled using eye-catching terms like AI, machine learning and algorithms.

This putsAccelerate in an imperative position to support businesses on ethical artificial intelligence, bringing a full understanding of the ethical challenges they bring.

The take up of AI4Good at organisations, businesses and brands and the public relies solely on the shoulders of effective and ethical PR guidance and advice, which Accelerate is a global leader on.

It’s a fascinating and exciting time to innovate as we approach the brink of mass adoption of artificial intelligence.

AI offers huge potential, but whose impacts need to be properly explained with effective PR and fully accounted with effective ethical scrutiny from leaders like Accelerate.

We all have the opportunity to be at the forefront of trustworthy and ethical innovation. But to do that, we need clear ethical standards and practices to ensure artificial intelligence is used correctly. We pride ourselves on this at Accelerate.

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