Communications, AI and The Role of Ethics

AI ethics or AI Law concept. Developing AI codes of ethics. Compliance, regulation, standard , business policy and responsibility for guarding against unintended bias in machine learning algorithms.

By now we’re all overwhelmed by the ever-changing discussion of AI and its implications in our professional and personal lives. There has been much ink spilled on how it’s going to put us all out of work—in fact, Goldman Sachs estimates that as many as 300 million full time jobs could be eliminated by AI.

Taken in a vacuum, that kind of displacement and potential social impact is frightening. But that may be putting the cart before the horse, because we’re still in the wild west phase.

We ought to focus on what kind of opportunity AI creates for us, as communications and marketing professionals, and how we can advance the ball for clients. Central to that is advising them on the proper communications strategies and application of ethics in their use of AI when dealing with customers.

AI Provides Comms a Seat at the Table

There already are organizations, like the PR Council, that have published codes of conduct for how we, as communications professionals, should govern our own applications of AI.  For agencies, our role needs to focus on advising our clients on developing codes of conduct to govern their own work and to effectively communicate these guidelines to key stakeholders, from employees, to customers, to market makers.

One of the most consistent refrains from communications professionals is our desire to have a seat in the executive suite, advising on mission-critical business issues. AI and its effective and ethical adoption sits at the top of that strategic pile and provides the access we crave. It places us at the forefront of one of the most defining issues of the next decade: having a voice in how the organizations we serve can effectively and ethically implement AI into their operations and the strategy for communicating it to key publics.

Questions and Answers About AI

We need to start by understanding the implications of AI in our clients’ businesses. Are they a technology company providing AI chips to developers and product makers? Are they a services company using AI to interact with customers? Are they leveraging AI to collect profile data? And, if so, what are their methods for security and storage? Or, something else entirely—the list is endless.

As communicators, we should be working hand-in-glove with legal counsel and the C-suite to craft a set of guidelines to publish across the company. Additionally, we should be developing external communications strategies that may include proactively sharing policies and challenging the broader business community to adopt similar ethics. Finally, we should be developing issues and crisis communications strategies in the event that, for unforeseen reasons, the policy is inadvertently breached.

These seem like incredibly obvious steps.  Yet, too often we hear about privacy violations or misuse of data in a world increasingly driven by high-speed and increasingly ungovernable technologies. AI is only accelerating the risk and, in all likelihood, incidences of exposure. Our role in this new frontier is to stay current and be prepared to advise key constituents on how to minimize their risk and maximize opportunity.

Peter Prodromou is President of Boathouse