AI: Do firms know where to draw the boundaries of benefits versus societal costs?

AI: Do firms know where to draw the boundaries of benefits versus societal costs?

Fintech zeitgeist! Every Monday, we might look back at last week; look ahead to this week; share a few thoughts (our own or others); or discuss anything that catches our eye.

This week, Devie Mohan, founder of fintech research and data company, Burnmark, examines the ethics of artificial intelligence (AI).

I was asked to speak about AI for the first time a couple of months ago. Since then, I have been asked to speak at two events and interviewed twice on the future of AI. Fair to say, it is a hot topic. It is also something I’ve been trying to get my head around in the past few months. This is about writing or speaking about AI knowing fully well that what happens now with the technology will affect me, my family, and the society we live in for generations to come. This is about making sense of my personal beliefs and views on AI in a world of highly conflicting, contradicting opinions.

Elon Musk seems to think AI will be the reason for the destruction of the world. Mark Zuckerberg seems to think that we cannot survive anymore without AI. Most bankers and technologists I speak to love the potential of AI and are ready to embrace the world of AI for clear business benefits. Every consumer I speak to is ready to give all of their personal data to a Siri or an Echo in return for convenience and comfort.

But we have some gaps:

1. Societal impact of AI in the long run

There are several academic and ethics institutes currently studying the ethics of AI as an academic subject. What I would like to see, however, is every single firm dealing with big data, analytics, machine learning and AI to understand the current and future impact of what they are deploying, on society as a whole. How would they deal with a self learning algorithm gone wrong? Do they have a clear view on data privacy even before regulations will come into play? Do they know where to draw the boundaries of benefits versus societal costs?

2. Setting our personal boundaries

I would also love to see all consumers of AI products to be educated and aware about their own personal boundaries. You may choose not to use any voice assisted devices or chatbots, especially from customer-data-owning conglomerates (you know who). Or you may be happy to give up personal data for certain conveniences. Whichever direction we go with AI, every person needs to know how their data is being used and how it can potentially affect them in the future.

Just because we are able to do something does not mean we have to do it. There is a good chance that AI will be heavily regulated in the future, but I hope all of us are in a good position to individually tackle one of the most powerful and disruptive technologies we have ever seen in our lifetime.


Last week’s Monday mindset touched on the UI and UX of India’s banking and financial services apps.

If you’re interested in contributing to our Monday mindset, contact our editorial team.


Banking Technology Awards 2017 are now open for entry!

Know any innovative products, inspirational projects, skilled teams or visionary leaders that deserve a special recognition this year? Nominate them for a Banking Technology Award!

Deadline for submitting the nominations is 25 August 2017.

@banking
techno