In the January 2023 social and ethics column, Josine Overdevest touched on ChatGPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer), the new AI (Artificial Intelligence) ChatBot kid in the first IT Ethics article of 2023. It is barely a month and Google has announced plans to launch Bard, a counter App to ChatGPT that is currently undergoing testing as explained in the Google just introduced Bard article.

Agile Systems Analyst and Member of the IITPSA Social and Ethics Committee, Constandious Takura Munakandafa, who has worked in the healthcare sector as a software engineer asks whether sufficient ethical guidelines and principles are being considered as input in the research and development of such innovative tools, and the impact they will have in decision support systems particularly in the e-health sector, which is faced by prevalent ethical dilemmas.

A quick snapshot of the IITPSA Code of Ethics speaks on the principles of ‘1.1.Contribute to society and to human well-being, acknowledging that all people are stakeholders in computing’ and ‘1.2 Avoid harm’ as some of the key responsibilities we have as IITPSA members in terms of upholding ethical values in our diverse and dynamic IT professions. How does this translate to the public good, for example, early detection of terminal diseases and pandemics as well as guarding against misinformation, bias and misrepresentation that is brought about by these technological tools also at the fingertips of children? How do healthcare professionals draw the line with their patients who have already self-diagnosed on ChatBots before being medically diagnosed by qualified physicians?

A deep dive into the Code of Ethics, section ‘2.5 Give comprehensive and thorough evaluations of computer systems and their impacts, including analysis of possible risks’ provides professionals with a corporate responsibility to align IT systems to ethical guidelines. This would include ensuring the new AI tools conform to ethical principles by educating and promoting awareness on both the positive and negative impacts with particular attention being paid to the effects of machine learning to the citizenry mental and health being with reference to e-health.  Examples are providing disclaimers and warnings to the users on the need to still seek professional counsel before making conclusions based on the ChatBot knowledgebase.

It is inevitable the wave being brought by machine learning is unstoppable as other tech giants like Microsoft and Meta are likely to follow suit in order to remain competitive. Is it not time ethics becomes the foundation of AI research? Technology has taught us that nothing is impossible, and we cannot be too surprised if humans find themselves under the medical care of robots that have learned to have a human conscience before the turn of this century. Let us engage further about this subject on the IITPSA social media platforms before the robots take over!