February 2020 – First Mover

With a mission to inform, empower, celebrate and advocate for British Columbia's current and aspiring business leaders, BCBusiness go behind the headlines and bring readers face to face with the key issues and people driving business in B.C.

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Page 77 of 79

opportunities to leverage it to do good in the world—and there's also some potential risks that we need to be ac- tively managing for." To that end, she sits on the federal government's Advisory Council on Artificial Intelligence, providing advice on how to build an AI industry that (per the government) "reflects Canadian values." "One of the core principles is building artificial intelligence that serves us," Cartwright says. "We need to ensure that we're building something that creates the world that we want to live in." Is the AI inclusive? Is it human-centric? And how is bias accounted for? One of the much-discussed biases is the gendered nature of personal digital assistants. From Alexa to Siri, to the bob- bing avatars on self-serve web pages, women are the ones in the "helper" role, programmed to talk in soothing, subservi- ent ways (see below). "If you're attaching gender to that, what does that mean for reinforc- ing the problems within our society?" Cartwright asks. "It's a really easy thing to not gender your virtual assistants." Developing ungendered digital assistants is, arguably, the lowest-hanging fruit; hard- er to pick out are some of AI's more hidden biases. Shalaleh Rismani, who researches the ethics of AI as an adjunct pro- fessor at UBC, is also a founding director of the Vancouver- based Open Roboethics Insti- tute. Ethical machine learning can only come as a result of decisions made early on in the development of predictive algorithms, Rismani says. She points to a recent example of a client she worked with that does safety inspec- tions. The client was trying to develop an AI solution that would predict which work sites are most likely to be hazard- ous; AI wouldn't replace the inspectors but guide them to where they're needed most. Rismani helped the client to re-evaluate the data being used and to ensure that data fields prone to bias—such as where the contractor was based, or their level of schooling—weren't included, in favour of strictly technical attributes. If you don't choose the right data sets, Rismani says, bias "just gets reinforced" in AI. Is a truly ethical AI even pos- sible? According to Microsoft's Tim O'Brien, not really. "Mitiga- tion, I think, is a more realistic goal. But even then, there's a lot of subjectivity," he told the crowd. "It's a bit of a Russian nesting doll: with each ethical decision we make, there's an ethical ethical decision." n 78 BCBUSINESS FEBRUARY 2020 SOURCE: TAKING STOCK: DATA AND EVIDENCE ON GENDER EQUALITY IN DIGITAL ACCESS, SKILLS AND LEADERSHIP, EQUALS RESEARCH GROUP L ast November, more than 100 people gathered in Microsoft's airy down- town Vancouver offices to learn about the future of artificial intelligence. They listened as the panellists—Tim O'Brien, Microsoft's GM of AI programs; Maya Medeiros, an intellectual property lawyer at Norton Rose Fulbright; and Tim O'Connell, CEO of Vancouver-based medi- cal data company Emtelligent— hotly debated how to "design and deploy ethical AI." Few in the crowd—or the public at large—would doubt that intelligent machines are taking over. The evidence is everywhere: from Google Maps recommending how we get from A to B, to Netflix offering a selection of movies "we might like to watch," to Amazon suggesting a list of goods "we might like to buy." AI is reshap- ing sectors from manufactur- ing to financial services, creat- ing massive opportunities for economic transformation—as well as a few ethical traps. Natalie Cartwright has her eyes trained on both. Cartwright's Vancouver- headquartered firm, Finn AI, builds virtual banking platforms that are powered by artificial intelligence: white- label virtual assistant prod- ucts, for retail banks such as BMO, that enable digital self- service, customer acquisition, fraud detection and smarter money management. But Cartwright, who has a BA in psychology and pathology, as well as a master's degree in public health, is keenly aware of the social implications of this AI revolution. "Artificial intelligence is probably the most fundamen- tal transition in technology that we will see in our lifetimes," she says. "There's a lot of The Ethical Choice Artificial intelligence is the most significant technological shift of the past decade. With it comes a raft of moral considerations by Matt O'Grady I T ' S A G O OD T H I NG ( quality time ) CAN I HELP YOU? Of 70 voice assistants examined for a 2019 investigation into the gendering of AI technologies, two-thirds had female-only voices FEMALE UNSURE MALE NEUTRAL BOTH NAME VOICE APPEARANCE 41% 68% 50% 23% 13% 19% 28% 0 29% 0 13% 2% 8% 6% 0 GENDER IDENTITIES OF VIRTUAL PERSONAL ASSISTANTS SAMINEH AFROUGH

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