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Looking For An AI Ethicist? Good Luck Posted on : Mar 02 - 2021

As more companies adopt AI, the risks posed by AI are becoming clearer to business leaders. That is driving many companies to hire AI ethicists to help guide them through an ethical minefield. But just as data scientists proved to be as elusive as unicorns, qualified AI ethics are also in very short supply, says Beena Ammanath, executive director of Deloitte’s AI Institute.

“We’ve seen different models evolving. It’s still very nascent,” Ammanath tells Datanami. “Just like with data science, there is a rush to get a chief AI ethics officer or hire an AI ethicist. Those are becoming newer roles that we brought in to [get] to a solution for ethics.”

Other job titles being used in the area include chief ethics officer, chief human tech officer, and machine learning ethicists. These titles are just starting to pop up on job boards–at least on some of them. The job site Indeed appears to auto-correct a search for “chief ethics officer” to “chief executive officer, while a nation-wide search for “AI ethicist” on Monster turned up zilch.

Just like with the hunt for data scientists, the person in charge of driving the AI ethics strategy at a company ideally will have a long list of qualifications. According to Ammanath, who was a Datanami Person to Watch for 2020, an AI ethicist generally should have the following skills and capabilities:

  • An understanding of AI tools and technology;
  • An understanding of the business and the industry and the specific AI ethical traps that exist in them;
  • Good communication skills and the ability to work across organizational boundaries;
  • And regulatory, legal, and policy knowledge.

There are additional skills that may be required, such as having experience with the philosophical, psychological, or sociological aspects of ethics; knowing how to structure a business and a team in an ethical manner; and even knowing how to mitigate the environmental impact of using AI.

“The point is that you need to have a wide variety of skills,” Ammanath says. “It’s like finding that unicorn…Trying to find that person with credible experience and knowledge in all of these areas is practically impossible.”

So where does that leave you? The odds are, unless you’re working at a very large enterprise, you won’t be able to find a person to fit this exact job description. In lieu of finding a perfect match with one person, Ammanath suggests we borrow another page from the data science playbook: consider AI ethics a team sport rather than an individual sport.

“I think it really needs to be a combination,” she says. “Just like everything with AI, the context and maturity of the organization drives a lot of this. It’s practically impossible to find this unicorn individual with all this expertise. It has to be a combination play.” View More