Discussion paper

This report emphasises real-world case studies specifically related to AI and automated systems, rather than a detailed exploration of the philosophical implications of AI, but those philosophical inquiries are also important. The goal of this document is to provide a pragmatic assessment of key issues to help foster ethical AI development in Australia. It has been written with the goal of creating a toolkit of practical and implementable methods (such as developing best practice guidelines or providing education and training) that can be used to support core ethical principles designed to assist both AI developers and Australia as a whole. Further research and analysis by professional ethicists will be necessary as AI technologies continue to shape Australian society.

This Ethics Framework provides guidance on how to approach the ethical issues that emerge from the use of AI. This report argues that AI has the potential to provide many social, economic, and environmental benefits, but there are also risks and ethical concerns regarding privacy, transparency, data security, accountability, and equity.

An ethical framework such as this is one part of a suite of governance mechanisms and policy tools which can include laws, regulations, standards, and codes of conduct. An ethical framework on its own will not ensure the safe and ethical development and use of AI. Fit-for-purpose, flexible and nimble approaches are appropriate for the regulation and governance of new and emerging digital technologies. Ethics both inform and are informed by laws and community values. These principles take laws into account and can form the groundwork for the formulation of more specific codes, laws or regulation, but are intended as a guide only.

In developing and governing AI technologies, neither over-regulation nor a laissez-faire approach is sufficient. There is a path forward which allows for flexible solutions, the fostering of innovation and a firm dedication to aligning the development of AI with human values.

This document does not aim to provide legal guidance. Regulations and possibly legal reform should be formulated as needed by the appropriate legal and governing bodies, for each specific domain or application. The goal of this document is to help identify ethical principles and to elicit discussion and reflection of how AI should be developed and used in Australia.

With a proactive approach to the ethical development of AI, Australia can do more than just mitigate against risks—if we can build AI for a fairer go, we can secure a competitive advantage as well as safeguard the rights of Australians.


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