What Is Ethical AI and Does Your Business Need It?

Dan Nicholson

From digital assistants like Alexa to new recommendations on Netflix, TikTok, and your newsfeed, artificial intelligence (AI) is already part of our daily lives. But, this fast-growing technology’s potential is far-reaching, with advancements being made across finance, healthcare, retail, transportation, and more.

In many ways, AI promises efficiency, innovation, and progress. Many businesses already recognize this. 

However, its prevalence also raises many ethical concerns, and questions, not only about how law can keep up with AI as it continues to evolve, but who will be proactive in ensuring what they develop won’t be used for nefarious purposes. According to a recent Conversica survey, 73% of senior leaders in the corporate sector said ethical AI guidelines are important, yet only 6% have developed them so far.

What Is Ethical AI?

In the realm of AI, the pursuit of ethical practices goes beyond mere compliance with laws. It acknowledges AI’s potential while asking: if we’re going to embrace this technology, how do we do it in a way that doesn’t harm others? It also signals a commitment to align AI advancements with the human concepts of “right” and “wrong.”

The skepticism around AI and whether it can be used for good is valid. In one corner, AI can create deep fakes of individuals against their consent or be trained to mimic the voice of a loved one, making it easier for fraudsters to scam unsuspecting individuals of private information, such as their bank accounts. And in the other corner, properly trained AI can help tutor students, allow people with disabilities to live more independently and even help parents access their paid leave benefits. It’s also a critical tool for business.

In all applications, ethical AI prioritizes privacy, non-discrimination, individual rights, and social good. 

As countless organizations and businesses scramble to get in on the ground floor, it is imperative to balance AI's potential while mitigating the ethical quandaries that come to the forefront.

Although countless businesses intend to integrate AI, few are as invested in doing it ethically, according to Simon Chesterman, the David Marshall Professor and vice provost at the National University at Singapore

“20% of the companies aware of AI risks are investing in RAI programs. The rest are more concerned about how they can use AI to maximize their profits,” he told the MIT Sloan Management Review.

Why Ethical AI Matters

While AI was conceptualized in the 1950s, it’s still relatively new tech. And, just like with the Internet and social media, laws haven’t quite caught up with it yet.

Ethical AI must operate beyond legal mandates to uphold fundamental human values. Its significance lies in discerning between those legal boundaries and ethical considerations. It serves as a safeguard against potential harmful impacts while harnessing AI's positive facets. This clear distinction sets the stage for responsible AI uses that, until legislation reigns it in, extend beyond legal compliances.

Challenges in Legal Measures

What should businesses that wish to use AI ethically do when existing laws and regulations fall short of comprehensively addressing what could go wrong? 

The insufficiency demands proactive ethical practices, first, from its investors and developers. But, in the scramble to get product across the finish line, many are cutting corners when it comes to ethics to avoid FOMO.

“The gold rush around generative AI has led to a downsizing of safety and security teams in tech companies, and a shortened path to market for new products,” said Chesterman. “Fear of missing out is triumphing — in many organizations, if not all — over risk management.”

That isn’t to say that ethical AI use is non-existent. Leading AI software provider C3 not only collaborates with democratic governments but also sets boundaries against deceptive applications, and the usage of its products by totalitarian regimes, and promises to work with the energy industry to help make it sustainable. If it finds that its product is being used in a way that violates its ethics, the company switches it off.

Building Trust in AI

Even if you don’t have Alexa in your home, you’ve likely had close contact with a digital assistant. There’s most likely one on your phone, or your laptop, and you’ve likely encountered a digital chatbot while shopping online who offers to answer questions you have about what you’re considering buying. 

As AI assistants evolve into proactive agents, establishing trust emerges as a foundational pillar for successful human-AI interactions. However, declining public trust poses challenges. A Bentley-Gallup Business in Society study found that a mere 21% of people trust businesses “some” or “a lot” to use AI responsibly. As much as they’re becoming part of our everyday lives, trust in AI falters.

These include concerns about discrimination, compromised data quality, and the imperative for human intervention in critical decision-making processes no matter how advanced the AI seems.

Investing in responsible AI

Despite mounting awareness of AI risks, organizations often underinvest in responsible AI (RAI). Profit motives tend to prioritize AI capabilities over investments in AI safety and risk management tools. 

This imbalance has widened the gap between current RAI investments and the necessary financial commitments, urging a strategic reassessment of priorities.

“Among those companies that have taken the time to invest in RAI programs, there is wide variation in how these programs are actually designed and implemented,” Triveni Gandhi, responsible AI lead at Dataiku, explained to the MIT Sloan Management Review “The lack of cohesive or clear expectations on how to implement or operationalize RAI values makes it difficult for organizations to start investing efficiently.”


The evolving landscape of AI underscores the pivotal role of ethical considerations in steering its trajectory. It's not merely about policies; it's about fostering a culture where AI seamlessly integrates into society while prioritizing human values and safety concerns.

Achieving this demands a multifaceted approach encompassing stringent policies, collaborative frameworks, and unwavering commitments to ethical AI. Only through such collective endeavors can we ensure the responsible integration of technology into our lives.





MIT Sloan Management Review

This article was originally published by Certainty News: Article Link

Dan Nicholson is the author of “Rigging the Game: How to Achieve Financial Certainty, Navigate Risk and Make Money on Your Own Terms,” deemed a best-seller by USA Today and The Wall Street Journal. In addition to founding the award-winning accounting and financial consulting firm Nth Degree CPAs, Dan has created and run multiple small businesses, including Certainty U and the Certified Certainty Advisor program.

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