Boards Need to Confront Ethical Questions About Artificial Intelligence

June 13, 2019 Ben DiPietro

A new report outlines nine challenges with the use of artificial intelligence, and suggests ways boards can confront these issues in a consistent and unbiased manner.


The report from the U.K.-based Institute of Business Ethics says directors need to ask the right questions, make sure they receive answers they understand, and set limits. Case studies are used in the report to offer real-world examples of the issues boards are facing.

Boards have to manage this new set of risks in a rapidly changing world that makes it harder for them to exercise control, and they can’t abdicate responsibility, said Peter Montagnon, associate director at IBE and the report’s author.

“At their core these challenges fall naturally into board responsibility for risk appetite and risk oversight,” said Montagnon. “Most of the key decisions are actually about how technology is applied, with the dilemmas being primarily philosophical and ethical.”

Among the issues to consider: how to avoid bias; how to treat customers, employees and third-party partners fairly; and how to deal with cyberattacks and protect data.

“Boards have to decide where to draw the line between the opportunities of using technology to further business objectives and the risk of inadequate controls, which end up infringing individual rights or otherwise endangering the company’s reputation,” said Montagnon.

It’s important not to place AI into a technology silo, and to ensure AI is part of the overall conversation involving the general debate about business judgement and risk appetite, said Philippa Foster Back, IBE director.

The report “does not claim to offer all the answers,” she said. “Rather, it seeks to set out the issues in a practical way, in the hope that this will help boards to engage and cope with what confronts them.”


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