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CIO Podcast: AI, the law and ethics

CIOs and organisations need to define their ethical standards as they embark on the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI), the community heard at a recent Horizon CIO Network roundtable.

The first Horizon CIO Network roundtable event of 2019 focused on how organisations can implement artificial intelligence (AI). CIOs from major financial services, medical, retail, education, manufacturing and housing joined the debate.

Keynote for the event was Alistair Maughan, who has been a partner with leading law firm Morison Foerster LLP since 2004 and at the forefront of technology law throughout his career. Maughan told a room full of CIOs about ethical and legal implications of AI.

“For almost 30 years now I’ve seen successive waves of technology evolution breaking on the shore from, offshoring and cloud and robotic process automation,” Maughan said of his career in technology law.

Maughan told the CIOs that AI differs from previous iterations of technology implementation as the relationship between the CIO’s organisation as a user and the supplier of the AI technology is far more “collaborative”. The lawyer goes on to describe how the relationships are complicated as the data belongs to the CIO’s organisation, and arguably the customer, but the AI technology of course belongs to the supplier.

“Lawyers tend not to like things that are joined as it does not work well, from a legal perspective, it sets my teeth on edge, a joint obligation means I can’t really enforce it. Joint ownership of intellectual property doesn’t work very well. It’s just much more complicated.”

Scare stories
Maughan has worked on a number of legal cases involving AI and reassured the CIO community that this technology is not the worrisome replacement for workers that it is portrayed as:

“You know, the scare stories out there in the Daily Mail on The Daily Express are all about AI and robots replacing humans. But the business cases that I’ve seen are almost exclusively around making humans more efficient.,” he said.

In Maughan’s experience organisations are experimenting with AI to find an efficiency or to solve problems. Maughan said he hears organisations state their AI ambition is: “We’ve got 15 steps between identifying the problem and selling something to the consumer, if we can make step number one 3% more efficient, step number two 5% more efficient,” then their business just might remain sustainable.

“The common theme is around the business case, it’s not necessarily about saving money and reducing headcount, it’s about what can we do more effectively as a business in order to improve the business going forward?”

But Maughan says the CIO community must be ready to act and consider the ethical impact of AI on their organisation.

The technology will improve the way organisation “engage with their customers”, “But be prepared to say, this isn’t meeting our ethical or our technical standards, as meeting your business case is more important.”

Maughan warned CIOs to be keeping abreast of the changing nature of business as a result of AI.

“There are certainly some issues around who owns the intellectual property in something that’s been created by a machine. And there are lots of legal arguments, there was a famous case of a photograph that was taken by a monkey that a photographer set up well, that legal cases is still running as to whether that wasn’t created by a human, so who owns the IP in that?

“We certainly have not yet got down to the position of being able to work out who owns the property in something created by a machine.”

Maughan concludes that the legal sector is, as ever, lagging behind the technology industry. “The law and regulation is miles behind what you guys in the technology field is doing and it’s been that way, ever since I’ve been a technology lawyer. The lawyers have barely got to grips with cloud and offshoring, they are certainly nowhere near getting to grips with a legal
regime to deal with AI and machine learning.”

Join us on 1st May for our next CIO network event [Register]
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About Mark Chillingworth 278 Articles
Mark Chillingworth has over 20 years of journalism and editing experience across all media platforms including online, live events, print magazines and television.

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[…] In March the UK’s leading technology lawyer Alistair Maughan gave a keynote of how AI is changing the ethical position for CIOs. You can listen to his keynote as a CIO Podcast here. […]

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