Let’s Talk AI Ethics: The Social Benefits of Artificial Intelligence

In both the world of business and in our personal lives, artificial intelligence (AI)-fueled social interactions have become ubiquitous and hugely convenient. AI is also at the heart of delivering today’s best customer experiences. As we discover the immense potential of AI, it’s critical to know where it adds value to society right now. Some of you are probably familiar with examples like bomb-defusing robots that save human lives. But other AI contributions might not be as apparent.

This first blog in a series on AI ethics takes a look at some of the social benefits of AI and its powerful impact on peoples’ lives.

AI Gives Farmers New Hope for Fair Loans

Thousands of rural farmers in India commit suicide every year. Experts believe there are several causes at work, one of which is predatory loans. If harvests fail, desperate farmers often borrow from microfinance loan sharks at crippling interest rates. Unable to pay back these loans, victims kill themselves to escape reprisal from their debt holders.

FarmGuide, a social impact startup, uses deep learning enabled by AI to prevent such tragedies. The company analyzes satellite imagery to predict crop yields for individual farms. Armed with this previously unattainable information, FarmGuide can build better actuarial models for lending and insurance. By providing farmers with lower and fairer interest rates for loans, FarmGuide reduces the risk of loan sharks preying on at-risk farmers.

AI Shuts Doors on Child Sexual Abuse

In many developing countries, children—and girls in particular—are easily exploited. But their complaints are largely ignored. The authors of Applied Artificial Intelligence: A Handbook for Business Leaders use the example of Liberia, which had a widespread problem with schoolteachers exchanging report cards for sex.

Global children’s advocate UNICEF offered help with “U-Report,” a social bot that enables young people to report social injustice in their communities via SMS and other messaging platforms. U-Report uses a natural language interface to capture insights from its 4.2 million users. It then analyzes the aggregated results, which are used to drive policy changes. In Liberia, U-Report asked 13,000 users if teachers were exchanging grades for sex, and an astonishing 86% said yes. Hotlines around the country were inundated as victims spoke up. As a result, the government began collaborating with UNICEF on a plan of action.

AI Prevents Unnecessary Surgeries

In the United States, more than 50% of women receiving annual mammograms for 10 years will experience a false-positive result. And many of these women will have a biopsy. In addition, studies show that two pathologists assessing the same biopsied tissue agree only about 60% of the time.

To address this, researchers at MIT and Harvard universities developed a diagnostic tool that uses AI machine learning to correctly identify 97% of malignant tumors—and to do so much faster. It has already reduced surgeries by 30%.

While AI-enabled tools are proving better than humans at analyzing mammograms, some countries, including the UK, require a second opinion from a human. This legal blending of AI and human decision-making adds another layer to the discussion of medical ethics.

The Power and the Paradox of AI

AI has the power to dramatically improve the well-being of humans, and even save lives. But along with its tangible benefits, there are the legal and ethical paradoxes to consider as you build your AI strategy.

This blog gives an overview of what AI brings to society, but the technology is also transforming customer experience in a similarly positive way. Follow our upcoming blogs as we continue to explore more topics on AI ethics.

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