Investors, accelerators urge AI startups to implement code of ethics

Amid growing concerns about the ethical implications and often biased tendencies of artificial intelligence, venture capital firms and technology accelerator programs are increasingly requiring startup clients to develop guidelines regarding the ethics of their AI offerings, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Analytics Ventures in San Diego, for example, not only has its own code of ethics, but also requires its associated startups to use a proprietary tool that explains an algorithm's decision-making process.

"If a human cannot understand the logic behind an [AI system's] action, it's much more difficult to contain," Andreas Roell, a managing partner at the firm, told the Journal. "So I see explainability as a core component of having an ethical guardrail around AI." Eventually, Mr. Roell added, "What I would like to see is that every single entity of ours has a designated AI ethics officer."

Others, like the Pittsburgh-based Innovation Works tech accelerator, offer a voluntary ethics program in which startups can learn about bias and data privacy, and are asked to articulate their own ethical values. High Alpha, an Indianapolis investment firm, has implemented yet another strategy: In recent years, they have begun inviting employees from outside the technology team to attend meetings and offer perspective on how highly advanced, potentially invasive software will be received by the public.

San Francisco-based Emergence Capital also encourages the companies in its portfolio to seek feedback from users that could aid in preventing any potential bias. "A company that opens themselves up to all of their users and customers will generate less-biased outcomes," founder and general partner Gordon Ritter said.

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