Technology is a Distribution System for Power: Growing Digital Ethics in Practice

In this episode, I’m joined by Ivana Bartoletti, Technical Director for Privacy at Deloitte, who recently authored An Artificial Revolution: on Power, Politics, and AI.

Ivana’s key message is that technologies are the systematic way we distribute power. When we’re talking about ethics, one of our fundamental principles is usually around fairness, and that really comes back to the distribution of power and resources within a system. We cannot shy away from questions about power when we’re thinking about AI and digital ethics, though they may be uncomfortable, and it may be challenging to develop a common vocabulary for addressing the issues.

It’s especially important to have a common vocabulary for talking about digital ethics because what ‘fairness’ means to a statistician might be very different from what it means to a consumer rights lawyer or to a product manager. In all cases, their individual definitions might capture an important facet of the full picture, but to really make progress, everyone needs to be on the same page.

For organizations seeking to make progress on digital ethics, the first step really is to start by forming a common vocabulary. After that, Ivana says, it’s about learning to engage with subject matter experts throughout an organization in the right way to get the most out of the expertise they have to offer. Governance mechanisms like AI ethics boards are beginning to emerge, as well as external regulatory mechanisms to build accountability. And finally, a very interesting growth area for accountability is analogous to financial auditing: algorithmic and data model review services offered by commercial companies as a service. We can expect to see more of these services emerging as automated decision-making systems continue to become ever more ubiquitous, and the regulatory and control mechanisms around them continue to mature.

Find out more about Ivana, including where to get a copy of her book, at

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