Some leading local labs have formed a new group dedicated to developing ethical AI.

IAGCSIRO’s Data61 and The University of Sydney have announced the creation of the Gradient Institute.

The Institute will be an independent not-for-profit organisation founded to research the ethics of artificial intelligence (AI) and develop ethical AI-based systems that will provide better outcomes for individuals and society as a whole.

The focus for the Institute will be to create a “world where all systems behave ethically”. This will be done not just through research, but also through practice, policy advocacy, public awareness and training people in ethical development and use of AI.

“Artificial Intelligence learns from data and data reflects the past – at the Gradient Institute we want the future to be better than the past,” said the institute’s inaugural CEO Bill Simpson-Young.

“By embedding ethics into AI, we believe we will be able to choose ways to avoid the mistakes of the past by creating better outcomes through ethically-aware machine learning.

“For example, in recruitment when automated systems use historical data to guide decision-making they can bias against subgroups who have historically been underrepresented in certain occupations.

“By embedding ethics in the creation of AI we can mitigate these biases which are evident today in industries like retail, telecommunications and financial services,” Mr Simpson-Young said.

Julie Batch, Chief Customer Officer at Australia’s largest general insurer IAG said being lead partner of Gradient Institute reflects a focus on embracing innovation to create better customer experiences.

“Leaning into the challenges and opportunities of AI requires considered thinking about fairness and equality,” she said.

“No government or business can do this alone. We need to work together across sector and we need to do this with urgency, which is why we’re proud to be founding partners with two of Australia’s strongest science and academic leaders - Data61 and the University of Sydney.

“Ethical AI will improve trust in how automated machines make decisions. IAG hopes to be an early adopter of the techniques and tools the Institute develops so we can provide better experiences for our customers.

“Establishing the Gradient Institute as an independent not-for-profit organisation is critical in bringing its purpose to life and we hope that other organisations will join us to contribute to this research,” Ms Batch said.

Adrian Turner, CEO of CSIRO’s Data61, the digital innovation arm of Australia’s national science agency, said Gradient Institute is an important step, as AI and machine learning will impact society and every sector of Australia’s economy.

“As AI becomes more widely adopted, it’s critical to ensure technologies are developed with ethical considerations in mind. We need to get this right as a country, to reap the benefits of AI from productivity gains to new-to-the-world value,” he said.