Last updated on January 6th, 2021 at 03:01 am

Merging artificial intelligence with human ethics for comfortable engagement: the imbalance of power between innovation and ethics

2nd November 2020                                                                                                                                                                                                     

With the rise in technological advancements, there has been an inverse relationship with consumers’ faith in privacy. The bond between the two parties continue to dissipate as Artificial Intelligence continues to develop and increase in power and skill.

Artificial Intelligence surrounds us whether we know it or not. There is a plethora of AI forms and all are seamlessly integrated into our daily lives. It is almost a given that we must accept and have faith in the service that AI provides for individuals and businesses. So why do consumers still distrust it and prefer human interaction?

There is a general discussion about privacy and surveillance in artificial intelligence in which the frequent topic for debate is whether the technology itself gains access to private data that is personally identifiable. This debate comes into focus as research into artificial intelligence technologies reveals controversial applications of which include facial recognition, speech recognition and eye detection. As said by Celeste Kidd, a developmental psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, “There is no such thing as a neutral tech platform”. Kidd argues that algorithms can influence human beliefs. With the additional perception that businesses do not have their customers’ safety and best interests at heart, it is easy to be sceptical about innovations in AI. In a supposed “customer-centric” environment, empathy and ethics lacks strength.

In a study conducted by Pegasystems, 6000 consumers from North America, The United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, Germany, and France revealed their views on AI and empathy. Two-thirds (65%) of respondents replied that they do not believe companies have their best interest at heart. To add, 69% say that they would be more inclined to tell the truth to a person rather than AI.

Another reason for the scepticism and belief of unethical practise of AI extends from the thought of conflicting interests. 35% of respondents said that they were concerned about machinery replacing humans and thus creating structural unemployment.  While AI is commonly used to conduct processes that are initially performed by humans, as their purpose is to mimic human intelligence, the growing number of jobs being replaced by technology, which include self-service checkouts and assembly-line factory workers, formulates unease and instability for individuals and their future. Accordingly, it can be argued that technological innovations solely care for efficiency rather than human need.

Ethics in Practice

Where technology becomes more skilful, there can be gaps in the market where AI can be used for good, such as health care. However, to ultimately satisfy this gap, researchers argue that ethics need to be embedded into their research. This is to grasp a complete understanding on the potential risks of algorithmic injustice. This opportunity has led to the question; will change in the conversation result in structural change?


Potential solutions are to introduce an ethical review checklist at conferences: Innovative technologies will be compared to “responsibility” benchmarks to determine whether they will satisfy the needs of users and will not pose potential privacy breaches. Existing review processes need to be refined to make ethical and societal impacts more profound.  Proposals also add asking authors to make a statement about the ethics of their work and training reviewers to spot ethical violations. 

In reference to the survey mentioned above, it can be implied that the reasoning for these statistics is that customers do not completely grasp how AI makes decisions. AI offers a plethora of opportunities for businesses to be more understanding and empathetic, however it is up to these businesses to take hold of AI, guide it and address their customers’ queries.

Transparency is most definitely key to helping customers understand how AI works. Organisations must employ these tactics and explain to their stakeholders the purpose of each piece of machinery and how their purpose will aid the community in a positive way.


Presently, AI controls almost everything from personalisation on websites or social media, to chatbots, but despite this customised and relevant customer service, many consumers are not persuaded by their intentions. Despite its ability to ‘think’, its inability to ‘feel’ is what separates technological innovation with ethics. It is necessary for businesses to alter perceptions through communication with their customers. Change their comfort levels by controlling AI, prove its value through responsible and ethical applications and focus its purpose on improving current problems. This is the only way for empathy and AI to coexist.

Michaela Agius

Michaela Agius

Digital Marketing Analyst at AI Australia

Afioga Leota

Afioga Leota

Marketing At AI Digital Solutions


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