Nov 28, 2023 - Technology

Rumman Chowdhury: Ethical misfires undermine support for AI

Rumman Chowdhury at Axios' AI+ Summit in Washington, D.C. Photo: Eric Lee/Axios

Advances in AI are imperiled by our failure to build the new technology with ethical care, says Rumman Chowdhury, scholar and co-founder of the AI non-profit Humane Intelligence.

Why it matters: While the media and policymakers are transfixed by warnings about long-term existential risks AI might pose, they are ignoring hard evidence of real harms happening today, Chowdhury told Axios' Ina Fried Tuesday at Axios' AI+ Summit in Washington, D.C.

What's happening: AI systems are already wrongly imprisoning people or denying them vital organs for transplants, she said. "These problems are existential, too, to the individuals impacted by them," she added, citing Vice President Kamala Harris' speech during the U.K.'s AI summit earlier this month.

  • "We've been sold this beautiful dream about how AI is going," Chowdhury said. But if the public sees AI being used to harm or discriminate, the technology will lose support and alienate potential users."
  • We can say we want AI to end global poverty, but since we have enough resources to do that today, the problem is not a lack of AI, but of human intention, she added.

One problem Chowdhury emphasized is the tech industry's continued failure to include diverse perspectives as it builds products for global use. AI has brought with it "a resurgence of bro culture," meaning "we're looking at tech 2017 all over again."

  • The outcome of the recent OpenAI battle, she noted, pushed two women out of the boardroom — and added former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, who made headlines for minimizing women's aptitude for science when he was president of Harvard.
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