Scientists from Imperial College London have proposed a new regulatory framework for assessing the impact of AI, called the Human Impact Assessment for Technology (HIAT).
The researchers believe the HIAT could identify the ethical, psychological and social risks of technological progress, which are already being exposed in a growing range of applications, from voter manipulation to algorithmic sentencing.
They based their idea on the Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA), which has been used to evaluate the environmental effects of proposed developments for 50 years.
Like environmental impact, the human impact of AI is difficult to model and often produces unforeseen results. Software is often easy to modify and regularly updated. The HIAT would therefore need to be part of an ongoing evaluation.
How the HIAT would work
The researchers recommend using an existing technology framework, such as the EU’s new AI guidelines, as the basis for the HIAT assessment and reporting.
Social science methods would then be used to assess human impact, like those used in psychology to evaluate wellbeing.
Every technology would also have to comply with current technical standards.
Relevant impact assessments already in place, such as the data protection impact assessment required by GDPR, could also be incorporated into the HIAT.
However, these won’t always be a direct fit. For example, algorithmic impact assessments (AIA) are typically conducted at the time of procurement, to assess whether an existing system should be used. The HIAT would be conducted in the early stages of designing these systems, and would involve the people who make them.
“Impact assessments are an important tool for embedding certain values and have been successfully used in many industries including mining, agriculture, civil engineering, and industrial engineering,” Imperial’s Professor Rafael Calvo, who led the research team, said in a statement.
“Other sectors too, such as pharmaceuticals, are accustomed to innovating within strong regulatory environments, and there would be little trust in their products without this framework. As AI matures, we need frameworks like HIAT to give citizens confidence that this powerful new technology will be broadly beneficial to all.”
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Published February 26, 2020 — 18:51 UTC