Engineers Launch Free Access to AI Ethics and Governance Standards

Engineers Launch Free Access to AI Ethics and Governance Standards

Gregory Hong is an IPilogue Writer and a 1L JD candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), a professional organization for engineers and technology experts, recently announced the launch of the IEEE GET Program, aimed at providing free access to AI ethics and governance standards. The program is part of IEEE's ongoing efforts to promote responsible AI practices and help organizations develop and implement ethical AI systems.

The GET Program for AI Ethics and Governance Standards opened seven standards for public access:

  1. Age-Appropriate Digital Services
  2. Addressing Ethical Concerns during System Design
  3. Transparency of Autonomous Systems
  4. Data Privacy
  5. Transparent Employer Data Governance
  6. Ethically Driven Robotics and Automation Systems
  7. Assessing the Impact of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems (“A/IS”) on Human Well-Being

Assessing the Impact of A/IS

The most cited of the standards is the IEEE Recommended Practice for Assessing the Impact of A/IS on Human Well-Being, which addressed the growing concern of how autonomous and intelligent systems may affect society. This standard provides a structured approach to evaluating the impact of A/IS on individuals, communities, and society, and helps organizations ensure that their systems are developed and deployed in a manner that supports human well-being. Recommended practices aim to bring an increased awareness about well-being concepts and indicators for A/IS and an increased capacity to monitor, evaluate, and address the well-being impacts of A/IS. Successful application of the standard includes implementing the ability to evaluate the ongoing well-being impact of A/IS on users and stakeholders while continuing to improve the system to safeguard human well-being, resulting in a greater ability to avoid unintentional harm.

The Standard also suggested numerous domains of well-being and accompanying indicators that system designers should be concerned with. These domains pertain to individual well-being —satisfaction with life, affect/feelings, and psychological well-being, social well-being —community, culture, education, economy, health, and work, and regulatory domains —environment, government, and human settlements. The Standard noted that these suggestions are a starting point for selecting indicators and that “indicators should be adapted to fit the circumstances of measuring and gathering data about the well-being impacts for an A/IS on user(s).”

Ethics and Systems Design

The IEEE Standard Model Process for Addressing Ethical Concerns during System Design is also frequently cited. This Standard provides a set of guidelines and best practices for organizations that engage in system and software engineering to make value-based ethical system design and investment decisions.

A number of interesting points to consider are included within the Standard Model Process. The standard provides guidance to organizations on establishing key roles in Ethical Value Engineering Project teams. These teams are then tasked with defining how a system is expected to operate from the users’ perspective Concept of Operations — identifying stakeholders and determining the context of use and potential for ethical benefit or harm (Context Exploration). There is also an Ethical Values Elicitation and Prioritization Process, which aims to obtain and rank values and value demonstrators, followed by an Ethical Requirements Definition Process that guides the defining of value-based system requirements to reflect the prioritized core values and their value demonstrators. Finally, the Standard also sets out an Ethical Risk-Based Design Process and a Transparency Management Process, guiding the realization of ethical values and required functionality in designing a system and how to inform stakeholders of the system’s implementation of ethics.

Impact on AI

Dr. Andreas Hauser, CEO Digital Service at TÜV SÜD (a collaborator of the IEEE GET program), has indicated that these IEEE standards are already being incorporated into AI governance. For instance, the European Union's Artificial Intelligence Act (“EU AI Act”) references many of the components that the IEEE makes available in this package. This will likely continue to be relevant both for regulators and AI developers —“TÜV SÜD sees a strategic advantage for those looking to demonstrate eventual compliance to human-centric regulatory measures or market pressures to leverage these IEEE standards and certifications.” Developing ethical AI systems is a multifaceted problem which requires extensive deliberation by organizations involved with AI systems development. The release of free standards by an authoritative governing body will likely immensely benefit everyone involved.