Tech firms need to be accountable for how AI evolves

AI is accelerating at lightning speed but tech companies that create the systems need to be accountable because of its potential impact on how people work and live, Irish edtech conference Learnovation 2023 heard this week.

“The potential for AI technology to cause harm by undermining how humans work and live is vast and leads to further questions about how we can create regulations that hold the tech companies that develop these systems to account,” Victoria Nxumalo, a leading campaigner for African women in STEM, told the Learnovation conference in Dublin this week (5 October).

“It also raises questions around how best to protect people’s right to autonomy in decision-making, free from manipulation by external forces.”

“We don’t want to demonise AI. We want to look at ways that we can humanise it”

Xumalo was addressing the problem of building human bias into AI systems.

Ethical standards must march in step with tech innovation

She told Learnovation 2023 that maintaining ethical standards amid rapid technological innovation is one of the most important challenges facing humanity in 2023. But, she adds, that in solving the challenge, we need to humanise AI and not demonise it. 

Named one of the Top 30 Most Influential Women in Tech in Africa by CIO Africa Magazine in 2021, Victoria Nxumalo is a tech specialist in digital skills training. She is the founder of Girls in STEM Trust and the Digital Learning Centre,  both of which are aimed at empowering young women and girls in Africa to pursue STEM studies and careers.

Her presentation examined the problem of building human bias into AI systems, the impact of AI on children’s education, and the legal and ethical implications of using user data to create AI models. 

Victoria is also Country Lead for Zimbabwe for SAP Africa Code Week, a continent-wide initiative to spark the interest of African youth aged eight to 24 in software coding, and is a Co-Moderator for SAP’s Women Empowerment Program. 

“We don’t want to demonise AI. We want to look at ways that we can humanise it. It’s important to look at the systems that we’ve created – especially if we’re getting to a point in the development of AI where the technology has a life of its own.”

Learnovation 2023 was hosted by Dr Nigel Paine, Global Thought Leader and former CLO of the BBC and also featured keynote addresses by Dr Patricia Scanlon, Ireland’s first AI Ambassador and founder of SoapBox Labs; Dr Jen Ross, co-director of the Centre for Research in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh; and Nick Shackleton-Jones, founder of Shackleton Consulting.  

“As technology evolves at a rapid pace, we are responsible for how it impacts future generations,” said Learnovate Centre director Nessa McEniff.

“This is why events like The Learnovation Summit are so important where we gather together senior learning professionals to explore the impact of technology on the future of work and learning. Technology and learning are shaped by the cultural and social contexts in which they evolve and we need to uncover and examine these invisible forces to ensure technology benefits rather than harms humanity.”

Main image at top: Learnovate Centre director Nessa McEniff with Victoria Nxumalo, a leading campaigner for African women in STEM

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