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IASA Conference 2018 - Ethics & AI - Member Review

Thank you to Iasa Member - David Bailey of Fenergo who wrote this review of our recent Iasa Conference. Conference presentations are available in the members resource section.

As with the prior IASA conference, the speaker line-up this year was quite diverse, with each speaker adding their voice to address the prevailing theme of the ethical responsibility of architecture in a rapidly evolving digital landscape. 

Jim Friars from ICS and Mick Callan from IASA Ireland delivered the Opening Address and set the tone for the speakers to follow. Mick Callan highlighting the need for architects to be mindful of ethical and legal dilemmas that will arise as AI, Mixed- and Augmented Reality technologies become more viable and wide-spread. He provided a business story where a physical storefront is increasingly affected by the introduction of virtual storefronts like Amazon. People tend to visit the store, inspect the goods, and opt to buy from Amazon instead. Mick used this simple example to ask the question: should architects be more mindful of the real-world impact the introduction of novel technology innovations can have?

Clare Dillon, a Technology Evangelist, believes that AI will become ubiquitous by 2021 and that architects should strive to influence the moral compass within companies as they design and implement AI in the future. She provided very scary examples of the pitfalls AI implementations face today, and helpful tips for the ethical implementation of AI in the future. 

John Ghent from Sytorus spoke about events leading up to GDPR, and the 5 months since its introduction. He made the point that the original Data Protection Directive (1995) already covered six out of the seven principles enforced by the current GDPR law (25 May 2018). Therefore, companies that had been compliant with the original Data Protection Directive were almost already GDPR compliant. John summarized the seven key principles of GDPR and counselled that companies should strive for GDPR compliance by following a top-down approach where GDPR compliance is rapidly assessed, compliance gaps identified and addressed. He also suggested that Data Protection Officer (DPO) roles be established within companies, and DPO champions are established within individual teams. These DPO's should have access to platforms and tooling that they can constantly use to assess compliance.

Graham Quinn from DAQRI showcased their latest Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR) product range. He believes that AR and MR is the inevitable future of computer input devices and that architects should be mindful of its ethical implementations. For instance, Graham advocated users of the technology should be kept safe, social responsibility is exercised, rights regarding the virtual augmentation of physical environments debated, user consent obtained, etc.

Thomas Wills from Fujitsu spoke about Quantum Computing and believes that quantum computers are not just possible, but inevitable. He distinguished between Quantum Annealing Computers and Quantum Gate Computers. Quantum Annealers are brilliant at solving logistical, manufacturing, finance, scientific and medical problems that can be expressed in a very specific mathematical format. Quantum Gate Computers, on the other hand, represent a whole new computer architecture including hardware, operating system, software etc. potentially capable of creating general AI. Thomas could only speculate as to when these computers will be available to the general public, and what ethical problems they will raise.

Tim Willoughby from An Garda showcased the fruits of his Mobility in Policing initiative. He briefly touched on some of the difficulties he faced regarding integration of data from various government institutions, and the ethical problems his team faced with securing and auditing access to sensitive citizen data accessible from the mobile smart devices Garda will be deployed with in the future.

Michael Porter from the Innovation Value Institute provided data analysis regarding Digital Readiness of enterprise companies and showed that most companies are not ready for digitization and digitalization. He listed a number of possible reasons for this, such as companies struggling with establishing the building blocks for their digital transformation, expecting IT leadership to step up and drive the transformation, a general lack of understanding of the value of software architecture, shortage of internal talent, application of digital lipstick, etc.

Gar Mac Criosta, a Digital Architect, introduced us to stoicism and its possible value for software architects.

General Notes:

Ethics, particularly ethical architecture practices applied during the implementation of emerging technologies such as AI, Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality, emerged as a strong theme. During the panel discussions, a general consensus emerged that architects, as thought leaders, should take it upon themselves to perform ethical governance within their respective organization. This could take the form of establishing where on the morality scale the organization can operate, establishing an Ethical Governance Board, championing legal compliance, introducing principles describing the stance on ethics the company is willing to adopt, etc.

Please note: these opinions are my own and not the views of my employer.

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