Microsoft and Dovetail Labs: Working to understand global AI ethics

Microsoft has operated at the cutting edge of technology for over four decades. As artificial intelligence systems (AI) have taken center stage, the ethical implications and social impacts of AI have become topics of compelling interest to industry, researchers and the public. The social impacts of AI technologies at a global level have not been fully understood and mechanisms to account for these challenges are lacking industry-wide, particularly across diverse international settings. Leaders at Microsoft recognize that while much of their development of AI technologies takes place in the U.S. and Western Europe, the impact extends far beyond.

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Dovetail Labs worked closely with key stakeholders at Microsoft to offer independent, rigorous social science research to help overcome these gaps. Dovetail Labs provided research and advising to Microsoft in 2018-2019 to assess the state of AI and related technologies in five global regions. Our analysis found major gaps in the literature and significant industry-wide implications. In fact, little systematic research has been done on the social impacts or ethical implications of AI systems anywhere in the world.

Apart from internal advising and thought partnership with Microsoft, Dovetail Labs has published a research analysis to disseminate key findings publicly. As far as we are aware, it is the first analysis of its kind: a large-scale, systematic review of the ethical implications and social impacts of artificial intelligence around the world. The report has been condensed and edited for academic publication.

The key findings of this report will be the subject of upcoming posts that we hope will encourage greater understanding, public debate, industry action and further research on the social impacts of AI technologies worldwide:

1) Regional differences are significant

2) AI can exacerbate social inequality

3) Further action is essential

We argue that additional interdisciplinary research, in which social scientists play a key role, is required to fully understand these emerging implications as AI continues to impact communities around the world.

Igor Rubinov