Do we really care about (artificial) intelligence?

Dear readers,

First of all I would like to wish you a healthy, safe and successful 2021!

Sorry for not keeping my promise to blog more in 2020 about responsible technology and artificial intelligence as I wrote in Happy New Year: The new roaring ’20s. The reason was that 2020 really became a roaring year due to COVID-19 and all my attention was completely dedicated to business, although some of you have seen my contributions on these topics in PropTech For Good (Europe and Asia) and Institutional Real Estate Inc.

During the COVID-19 pandemic digital enabled technologies are playing a crucial role in keeping our society functional through online shopping, remote work, telehealth, distance learning and online entertainment. Probably many of these digital technologies will be relevant after the pandemic on how we do business, how we trade, how we work, how we produce goods, how we learn, how we seek medical services and how we entertain ourselves.

Responsible use of the digital enabled technologies that often inhibit artificial intelligence is still a topic of debate. It is important to know how data is being gathered (often we are the suppliers of the data without knowing), how the data is being processed (through models and more and more through deep learning models used by Artificial Intelligence) and how the data is being presented. At least we would like to know what principles of Artificial Intelligence are being used. Further we as global citizens are discovering new grounds as we have decided to transform the world according to the UN Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development. How is this agenda implemented in the digital enabled technologies?

Not yet formally published research by Timnit Gebru, the co-lead of Google’s ethical AI team who was forced to leave in December 2020, shows that Artificial Intelligence is still struggling with old ideas and models of the world. This is not a real surprise as Artificial Intelligence learns from data that we put in the system and as big companies are leading the innovation they are probably more concerned about their business model first.

The development and the use of Artificial Intelligence really should engage more stakeholders to participate in the complex debate. Espcially if we are striving for dignity, peace and prosperity for people and the planet. Schneider et al. (2020) created a conceptual framework for AI governance which outlines the complexity.  

Despite the complexity and perhaps our humble knowledge about Artificial Intelligence, we should be aware that digital technologies are becoming more important on how we do business, how we trade, how we work, how we produce goods, how we learn, how we seek medical services and how we entertain ourselves. At least we could ask to what principles companies adhere to, who is the external auditor and do they comply with the UN Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development.

Norbert Bol


Guerreiro, J. (2020). Do We Really Care About Artificial Intelligence?: A Review on Social Transformations
and Ethical Challenges of AI for the 21st Century. In Managerial Challenges and Social Impacts of Virtual and Augmented Reality (pp. 234-251).
IGI Global.

Hao, K. (2020). We read the paper that forced Timnit Gebru out of Google. Here’s what it says, MIT Technology Review.

Kordon, A. (2020). Practical Issues in Human and Artificial Intelligence Interaction. In Responsible AI and Ethical Issues for Businesses and Governments (pp. 35-53). IGI Global.

Morley, J., Floridi, L., Kinsey, L., & Elhalal, A. (2020). From what to how: an initial review of publicly available AI ethics tools, methods and research to translate principles into practicesScience and engineering ethics26(4), 2141-2168.

Raab, C. D. (2020). Information privacy, impact assessment, and the place of ethicsComputer Law & Security Review, 105404.

Schneider, J., Abraham, R., & Meske, C. (2020). AI Governance for BusinessesarXiv preprint arXiv:2011.10672.

Schram, E. (2021). Hoe het ontslag van een Google-onderzoeker een crisis in AI blootlegt, Het Financieele Dagblad.

Stahl, B. C., Andreou, A., Brey, P., Hatzakis, T., Kirichenko, A., Macnish, K., … & Wright, D. (2020). Artificial intelligence for human flourishing–Beyond principles for machine learningJournal of Business Research.

United Nations (2015), Transforming our world: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Photo by Fran Simó ( I dreamed about a human being ) on / CC BY-NC-SA

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