TechInAfrica – According to Cliff de Witt, co-founder of Metrofile Group’s Dexterity Digital, quantum computing and Artificial Intelligence (AI) has changed the face of computing significantly, leading to unintended risks.
de Witt, who was a former chief innovation at Microsoft, said that developers had turned from using low-level building blocks to high-end platforms which were changing computing. Furthermore, AI and machine learning have changed traditional programming models.
“Machine learning starts with a model, you feed in a sample output and then you train the programme to deliver the output – so you never wrote the programme, you trained it,” said de Witt at his opening address of the annual DevConf Developers Conference in Johannesburg.
“In AI and machine learning, the programme is learned and taught, so it changes over time and this demands continual monitoring.”
This fundamental change will lead to unintended consequences, such as racial and gender bias and other unintended risks.
“These unintended consequences seem to be particularly prevalent in machine learning, and the responsibility lies with us to focus on the ethics in computer science. Never before have there been so much computing power or the people behind it been in such a powerful position. We just got a big loaded gun, and we need to think about what we do with it.”
de Witt noted, “We need to think about the bigger picture, ask the why questions and consider whether there could be unintended consequences.”
Furthermore, de Witt said that software powers systems that are used to determine prison sentencing, uncover access to funding, or identify who qualifies for home loans and university access, developers behind the software should understand well what consequences and risks it brings.
“At the moment, ethical software development is an industry responsibility, and developers themselves need to take the time to understand the consequences of what they are doing,” de Witt highlighted.