Forbes: Building an ethical work culture for the age of AI

Forbes: Building an ethical work culture for the age of AI

Image courtesy of Getty.

Irma Becerra is president of Marymount University, a comprehensive doctoral-granting university known for its innovative curriculum.

I recently gave a presentation to a group of members of our Board of Trustees when one member asked how the university is dealing with the ethical considerations of AI. As educators, the first thing on our minds is whether students will be tempted to use ChatGPT to write their papers and what precautions professors should take to ensure AI doesn’t rob this generation of opportunities to grow.

The AI era promises improved quality of life, potential longevity and solutions to many top global concerns. As a university president, I am optimistic about what advancements in AI will bring. Yet, as technology rapidly advances, so does the need for thoughtful, ethical consideration of its long-term impact. All leaders must address ethical and safety concerns over the implementation of AI within their organizations.

Here are just a few ethical concerns about AI:

  • Generative AI can help create and distribute harmful content, including fake images, videos, text or speech.
  • Most AI models are trained on loads of data, and these models frequently ignore copyrights or the sensitivity of information, including personal information. Furthermore, AI models could inadvertently disclose sensitive information.
  • Generative AI could amplify biases in the data.
  • The promise of increased productivity by AI means that many jobs, particularly those that are well-paid and do not require a college degree, are expected to disappear.

Leaders must help employees adapt to AI-driven changes in their roles. We must also implement concrete steps that address any social risks or the potential for misuse. These concerns are just the tip of the iceberg, making courageous leadership vital today. AI’s tremendous advancements and opportunities heighten the need to focus on organizational accountability and sound choices.

Leaders’ Role in Championing Ethics

AI guarantees more rapid change and uncertainty than at any other time in the last five decades. Decision making in this era will undoubtedly present uncertainty for leaders. Hence, it is crucial to act in alignment with your organizational values. A solid work culture grounded in strong principles and sound ethics will provide clear standards and policies (i.e., an organizational moral compass).

Employees understand ethical actions are integral to success. Instead of waiting for issues, help your team proactively identify and find solutions to potential ethical challenges.

Building Trust through Transparency

Consider developing a framework that sets expectations, reduces ambiguity and confusion and helps your team make sound judgments independently. When your employees have a clear picture of expectations, they can make everyday decisions with the utmost confidence. Therefore, educating your employees on how AI works, its limitations and how it can augment their work will clear a path to success.

Employees (and students) using AI should balance working smarter without becoming passively dependent on the technology. When employees understand its limitations, they will know to ask critical questions about data sources and algorithms before relying solely on AI outputs. Active listening will help gain insights into employee perspectives on ethical dilemmas, policy creation and development. Listening to employees can create a sense of purpose and inspire their interest in actively upholding organizational standards.

With a solid ethical framework and being fully informed about AI’s capabilities, your employees can make responsible decisions about when and how to leverage tools for optimal results.

Using AI to Augment Learning

As a university president, I know all too well how AI can become a crutch or be used unethically. Students turning to ChatGPT to write papers or to find results for math or science experiments rob them of crucial learning experiences. Taking shortcuts is nothing new for college students, but the speed and ease with which they can skirt learning is alarming.

Fortunately, there are myriad ways in which AI can help students learn better. For example, intelligent tutoring systems (ITS) can mimic the role of a human tutor. The tool provides step-by-step guidance, breaks down complex concepts, answers questions in natural language and offers targeted feedback and hints. Rooted in artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies, ITS can interact directly with college students needing help. It captures data about student responses to model each student’s knowledge, metacognition and motivation. Research indicates that learning from ITS is associated with higher outcome scores across different educational levels.

Detailed insights into student performance will spotlight where students struggle so college instructors can tailor their instruction to address these gaps. ITS can generate data analytics and visual representations of student progress, highlighting specific areas of strength and weakness in their work. This data-driven approach enables educators to track student performance over time, identify patterns of misunderstanding or misconceptions and adjust their teaching strategies accordingly.

Expect a Steep Learning Curve

To ease worries and encourage communication over AI, establish clear communication channels for employees to raise concerns about potential harm. One significant measure to have in place is creating an open culture for reporting any ethical issues. AI training for every employee will ensure they use the tools appropriately, leading to optimal workflow and productivity. A mix of workshops, open discussions in the office and formal training by experts will serve organizations well when navigating the many changes.

Responsible technology use calls for an ongoing commitment to shaping a future where AI serves as a force for good. The future of AI is bright but only if we shape it with intention. As leaders, we must champion responsible AI use and hold ourselves and our teams accountable for seeking ethical outcomes. Remember, an ethical culture won’t empower employees if it’s not authentic. We must consistently maintain high ethical standards while acting with courage and integrity.