Complete Guide to Ethical AI: History, Challenges, and Benefits

June 19th, 2023 / By: / Published in: Blog

As more and more companies use AI to build scalable solutions, some surprising challenges are arising. AI models are trained on actual data, and real data is laden with biases of society. When the AI models are operationalized to issue lines of credit or enhance patient care, for example, the models have the power to shine a bright spotlight on areas of injustice. Questions arise about accountability, control, and humanity itself. And this is merely the beginning. Ethical AI is designed to leverage AI’s power for society’s betterment, establish specific guidelines to support this effort, and proactively mitigate risks. 

This guide defines ethical AI, provides a brief history of AI ethics, discusses challenges and issues in AI, explains the importance of AI, and details examples of AI codes of ethics. 

What is ethical AI?

Ethical AI is artificial intelligence that abides by value-driven principles that pertain to privacy, human rights, safety, and equity. The tenets of ethical AI go over and beyond that which is permissible by law to ensure accountability and respect for human values. 

A Brief History of AI Ethics

In 1942, the science fiction writer Isaac Asimov introduced the Three Laws of Robotics in a short story, “Runaround.” The three laws are as follows:

  • “A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  • A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  • A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.” 

Later in his career, Asimov added a fourth law to supersede the others: “A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.” 

In 2017, a group of experts gathered to develop safeguards to mitigate the risk of AI to humans. At the Beneficial AI 2017 conference, the experts outlined the Asilomar AI Principles, which are regarded as the earliest and most influential set of AI ethical standards that address the following: 

  • Research Issues – For example, the goal of AI should be to create beneficial intelligence, not undirected intelligence. 
  • Ethics and Values – For example, the use of personal data must not limit perceived or actual liberty, and humans must maintain control over AI systems. 
  • Longer-Term Issues – AI has immense power and potential and must be carefully planned, controlled, and managed. 

Ethical Challenges and Issues in AI

AI raises several potential ethical challenges and issues, including: 


Given the unprecedented complexity and power of AI algorithms, it could be challenging for companies and creators to keep track of the chain of algorithms and processes to explain and manage actions taken by AI. Developers and companies need to design traceable AI models and follow through with accountability so that when issues arise, the cause can be located and addressed. 


An important question arises with AI: Who is responsible for the consequences of AI-based decisions? For instance, who is accountable if the actions of a self-driving car cause an accident? Companies and governments must adopt and practice AI ethics that outline a transparent chain of responsibility. 


AI is trained on existing data sets that often contain biases ingrained within society. Thus, AI models learn and precipitate systems of injustice based on prejudice against race, gender, ethnicity, class, and more. Companies must include in the AI code of ethics a process for continually examining and addressing biases built into and evolving with the AI models they use. 

Malicious Use

AI algorithms can and likely will be used for purposes different from those they were created. In the best care scenario, potential opportunities for misuse can be identified and prevented in the design stage. 

The Importance of AI Ethics

Humans design AI to replicate, replace, or supplement human intelligence. Large volumes of sensitive data are involved, and complex algorithms can lead to potentially extreme consequences. AI can potentially exacerbate injustices, precipitate social and economic warfare wildly, and undermine the importance of the human experience. 

Ultimately, AI ethics are important because they illuminate the benefits and risks of AI and establish moral guidelines for proper use. AI ethics are also wrapped in a more extensive discussion about the essential elements of humanity, the value of the human experience, and global social issues. 

What is an AI code of ethics?

An AI code of ethics is a proactive approach to ensure AI adheres to standards and requirements of ethical use and outcomes. An AI code of ethics outlines proper behavior and provides the motivation for the behavior. 

Examples of AI Codes of Ethics

  • Inclusive – Companies must work to uncover and eliminate biases and conduct careful auditing to continually filter out any issues that may arise. Additionally, creators must ensure AI models perform equally well across all aspects of society. 
  • Explainable – Blindly using an AI model is unethical. Companies must fully understand the algorithm and achieve accountability through visibility and transparency. 
  • Positive Intent and Outcomes – Anything could possibly be used for harm. AI models must have positive intent and be monitored to ensure positive outcomes. 
  • Responsible Data Use – AI models must observe data privacy rights, and companies must not sacrifice individuals’ rights to privacy to develop AI models. The minimum amount of data should be collected only as needed, not continually, and no longer needed data should be deleted. 
  • Alignment with Values – AI models must align with human dignity, rights, freedoms, and diversity values.
    Control – Humans must maintain control over AI systems, choosing when and how to delegate decisions to AI, and the AI must accomplish human-chosen objectives. 

Building Ethical AI

AI is a continually and rapidly evolving technology. Instead of taking a reactive approach, leaders must proactively and constantly evolve the AI code of ethics to stay ahead of the developments in AI. 
Companies ready to use AI ethically can contact Encora for support. Encora is a digital engineering services company specializing in next-generation software, digital product development, advanced digital strategy, market activation solutions, and cutting-edge technology practices. Encora’s software engineers are well-versed and highly skilled in ethical AI across a wide range of industries. Furthermore, Encora is deeply expert in the various disciplines, tools, and technologies that power the emerging economy, and this is one of the primary reasons that clients choose Encora over the many strategic alternatives available. Please reach out to Encora with questions or to get started.