There was no shortage of ethical issues raised at the 2019 Elevate Ethics event May 14 as panelists discussed a range of impacts artificial intelligence could have on our country, community and lives. The Institute for Enterprise Ethics hosted “Elevate the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence” inside the Reiman Theater at the Daniels College of Business.

Moderator Tamara Chuang, co-founder and writer for The Colorado Sun, asked the panelists to start by giving the audience an idea of how they use AI in their current positions.

Kevin Krauth, CEO and co-founder of Orderly Health, explained that his company uses machine learning to identify errors in data sets and they use natural language processing so insurance providers can answer questions or update a record in their system. In 2017, Orderly launched Louie, an AI-powered virtual assistant that helps patients find doctors and get answers to health care questions.

Kevin Krauth, CEO and co-founder of Orderly Health

Krauth explained that as his company collects more data, they can really tailor help for patients. For example, if a family had a son with Type 1 diabetes and the system saw they were moving, they could notify the family of a great primary care physician in their new neighborhood. Krauth joked that people could find that very helpful, or very creepy.

“I think the best way to combat ethical issues is to be very transparent,” he said.

Suma Nallapati is currently the chief digital officer for DISH Network, but previously worked as Colorado’s secretary of technology and CIO under Gov. Hickenlooper.  At DISH, she’s using AI to improve the customer experience, creating a journey based on what the machine learns. At the state, Nallapati shared that AI was used to drastically reduce processing time, so citizens could get answers in 45 minutes instead of 45 days.

Nallapati has great hope for AI to be used for social good; she shared that her daughter, who is a student at DU, is trying to use AI to predict the next school shooting. Despite her hope, she cautioned that everything has to be thought out carefully.

“No one can take intelligence from human beings,” she said. “We, as consumers, need to use our brains. We need to be our fiercest advocates when putting our information out there.”

Josh Reitsema, strategy and investment manager at Lockheed Martin Space Systems, uses AI to tailor the NASA robonauts to do jobs outside the international space station. He envisions AI to be used to send up a team of robonauts to build a base in space, and humans could follow three years later.

Suma Nallapati, chief digital officer for DISH Network

Reitsema and the other panelists were asked questions from Chuang and four selected DU professors from different disciplines. Bruce Klaw, assistant professor of business ethics and legal studies, wanted to know if we could assess the ethical outcome of AI if we didn’t know how the machine came to that conclusion.

Reitsema was clear, “We don’t build algorithms where we don’t know how it came up with the answer.” He also indicated that coders could program the machine to show them the path it took to make that decision.

Right now, Reitsema shared how robots are being sent into disaster areas to find victims. But in the future, the robot might have to decide how to attempt to rescue that victim, making decisions that could injure them further if it doesn’t go well.

Rob Carpenter, CEO and co-founder of Valyant AI, is changing the fast food drive-thru line. His company is building Holly, the machine who can take your order at the drive-thru window.

“These are very stressful jobs with 100 to 200% turnover per year,” Carpenter said. He said fast food employees are on their feet eight hours a day and take up to 600 orders during their shift. “So far employees are most enthusiastic about our product.”

While the purpose of Valyant AI’s technology is to be able to understand orders, Carpenter admits that potentially, they could recognize customers, by their voice, sounds of their car, or facial recognition. Illinois and California have laws on the books about biometric privacy rights. He and the other panelists agreed that laws are behind the technology.

Chuang asked Carpenter and the other panelists about the fear of machines taking over human jobs.

Carpenter admitted that AI could replace jobs in the short term, but it will also create new jobs that didn’t exist before, like a social media manager position, which didn’t exist 12 years ago.

“There will be job losses as technology advances,” he said. “But, they’ve always made the quality of life better and living expenses better.”

While Nallapati and Krauth agreed with Carpenter that occupations will be created, they were more cautious about the disruption in the short term.

“It’s important for us to be aware of what’s happening,” Krauth said. “We are the innovators and perpetrators of disruption; we need to be helping people transition to the new economy and not let them fall through the cracks.”

Lorenzo Patelli, interim director of the Institute, was pleased that this topic was of interest to such a broad and diverse group.

“I think one of the remarkable aspects of the success was the engagement of a very diverse audience, which comprised researchers, as well as students, from different disciplines, business professionals and representatives of the DU leadership team,” Patelli said. “It’s delightful that this topic was of interest to our community.”

Elevate Ethics is sponsored by the Daniels Ethics Initiative and Pinnacol Assurance. For more information, visit the Institute’s website.