Prerequisites for Setting up a
Responsible AI Program

Insights from the Responsible AI and AI Quality Summits 2023
Yiannis Kanellopoulos
CEO and Founder | code4thought
In the era of rapid technological evolution, organizations are grappling with the imperative to swiftly embrace new AI technologies and tools. This urgency permeates every layer of an organization, from the IT departments to the C-level executives and Board of Directors. To navigate this complex landscape successfully, organizations must prioritize training and upskilling initiatives. The goal is to empower their workforce to not only comprehend the intricacies of AI technologies but also to identify associated risks and create a governance framework for their responsible and trusted implementation.

The Imperative of Knowledge

At the forefront of any endeavor into AI lies the crucial element of knowledge. The absence of understanding has been identified as a primary reason for the emergence of problematic AI systems. Organizations are compelled to invest in training programs that equip their teams with a deep understanding of the AI technologies at hand. This extends beyond technical proficiency to encompass the ability to discern and mitigate the risks associated with AI applications.
A well-informed workforce is pivotal in making strategic decisions aligned with the principles of responsible AI. The lack of knowledge has been identified as a significant hurdle, and addressing this gap is foundational for building systems that are not only technologically advanced but also ethically sound.

Breaking Down Silos: A Call for Collaboration

Responsible implementation of AI systems cannot thrive in isolation. It demands the breaking down of silos and the fostering of collaboration across different functions, roles, and individuals within an organization. While IT departments have traditionally spearheaded technological initiatives, the advent of AI necessitates a more inclusive decision-making process.
Contrary to traditional approaches where IT dominates decisions on technology investments, AI implementation demands more input from business functions. Simultaneously, developers must be integral to the process from the early stages of design, aligning with senior executives and relevant stakeholders. This collaborative approach ensures that the development of AI systems is in harmony with the overarching organizational goals.

Shifting Left: Integrating Responsible AI into Workflows

A crucial aspect of successful Responsible AI (RAI) governance is the concept of “Shift Left.” This involves integrating tools and processes for RAI into the existing workflows of an organization. The goal is to avoid reinventing the wheel and seamlessly embed responsible practices into daily operations.
While not without its challenges, this shift-left approach facilitates the adoption of a Responsible AI culture within the organization. By leveraging existing processes, organizations can streamline the integration of ethical considerations, governance measures, and transparency into the AI development lifecycle.

Defining Guardrails: Identifying Properties of Responsible AI Systems

Setting up robust guardrails and processes for RAI governance requires a meticulous identification of the properties of an AI system that need to be in scope. In legislative regions such as the EU, US, and UK, there is a convergence on a common set of properties, including Accountability, Fairness, Transparency, Privacy, and Safety/Security.
However, the lack of a common legal definition of an AI system and a unified approach to governance pose significant challenges. Achieving this horizontal alignment remains a hurdle that organizations and legislative bodies must collectively address to ensure responsible AI practices.

Balancing Innovation and Regulation

The next challenge in the realm of legislation is finding the delicate balance between fostering innovation and implementing regulations. Regulation should not be perceived as the end of innovation but rather as a stimulus for it. Organizations subscribing to this perspective set the stage for the success and impact of upcoming legislations.
The EU AI Act has sparked debates, with some experts suggesting it is more stringent than President Biden’s Executive Order in the US. However, a closer examination reveals that the EU AI Act provides comprehensive guidance on building quality and trusted AI systems. Trust in AI is a cornerstone for its adoption, and regulations play a crucial role in ensuring accountability and transparency.

Unraveling the Nuances: Performance vs. Trust

In the journey towards implementing a Responsible AI program, organizations must grapple with the nuances between the performance and trust of an AI system. The performance of an AI system characterizes how well it executes a specific task, reflecting perceived trustworthiness. On the other hand, trust in an AI system expresses the level of confidence people have in it and its outcomes.
This distinction translates into a series of principles, such as Accountability, Fairness, Transparency, Safety/Security, and Privacy, which underpin Responsible AI. Understanding and implementing these principles are fundamental to building AI systems that not only perform optimally but are also trusted by users and stakeholders.

The Role of Legislation in Responsible AI

Legislation plays a pivotal role in the responsible implementation of AI. While there is a convergence on key properties, achieving a standardized legal definition of an AI system and a universal governance approach remains a significant challenge. Striking the right balance between fostering innovation and implementing regulations is crucial for the success of Responsible AI programs.
Regulations should be viewed as enablers of innovation, guiding organizations toward building ethical, accountable, and transparent AI systems. The success of legislation lies in its effective implementation, ensuring that AI technologies earn the trust of users and society at large.

Conclusion: Navigating the Complex Landscape

As organizations embark on the journey of setting up a Responsible AI program, a holistic approach is paramount. Prioritizing knowledge and upskilling initiatives, fostering collaboration across functions, embedding responsible practices into existing workflows, defining guardrails based on recognized properties, and navigating the delicate balance between innovation and regulation are key steps.
Legislation, while providing a framework, should be viewed as a catalyst for innovation rather than a hindrance. The ultimate goal is to build AI systems that not only perform optimally but are also trusted by users. In this intricate dance between technology and ethics, organizations that prioritize responsible AI practices are poised to lead in an era where trust and accountability are the cornerstones of technological advancement.