The tech industry is having a moment of reflection. Even Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Cook are talking openly about the downsides of software and algorithm mediating “peoples lives”. And while calls for regulation have been met with increased lobbying to block or shape any rules, some people around the industry are entertaining forms of self regulation. One mind swirling around: Should the programmers and data scientists massaging our data sign a kind of digital Hippocratic oath?
Microsoft liberated a 151-page book last month on the effects of artificial intelligence on civilization that argued “it could make sense” to bind coders to a pledge like that taken by physicians to “first do no harm.” In San Francisco Tuesday, dozens of data scientists from tech corporations, governments, and nonprofits gathered to start drafting an ethics code for their profession.
The general thought at the meeting was that it’s about period that the people whose the terms of reference of statistical analysis target ads, advise on criminal convicting, and accidentally enable Russian disinformation campaigns woke up to their power, and used it for the greater good.
“We have to empower the people working on technology to say’ Hold on, this isn’t right, ’” DJ Patil, chief data scientist for the United States under President Obama, told WIRED.( His former White House post is currently vacant .) Patil kicked off the event, called Data For Good Exchange. The attendee list included staff members of Microsoft, Pinterest, and Google.