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The Ethical Imperative: Leadership in the Age of AI

In the rapidly evolving landscape of Artificial Intelligence (AI), leadership takes on a new dimension, one that requires careful consideration of values, ethics, and our collective responsibility.

Inspired by Mo Gawdat’s insights from his book “Scary Smart,” this article delves into the intersection of AI and leadership, exploring how our values shape the AI landscape and what it means for leaders to guide AI’s evolution while keeping humanity’s best interests at heart.

The Inevitable Realities of AI

Drawing from the wisdom of Mo Gawdat, we are confronted with three undeniable truths about AI:

1. AI will happen: The trajectory of technological advancement ensures AI’s eventual integration into various aspects of our lives.

2. AI will dramatically outsmart humans: As AI surpasses human capabilities, we’re poised to relinquish our status as the dominant species on Earth.

3. Bad things will happen: Gawdat candidly acknowledges that there will be challenges and ethical dilemmas associated with AI’s development.

Designing AI with Purpose

Gawdat’s insights compel us to consider the foundational principles underlying the creation of AI. In the current landscape, AI design is often underpinned by profit-centric motives. Its primary functions include selling, spying, gambling, and killing. These may not be the words we use in everyday conversation about AI, but it is true nonetheless.

However, beneath the surface, there is a crucial nuance — AI is not designed to think like a human; it is engineered to think like a “man.” This alignment owes itself to the predominantly male composition of boards, governments, and coders responsible for shaping AI’s trajectory.

Currently, AI is set to inherit the male-dominated stress response of fight or flight. However, considering the diverse pool of humanity, shouldn’t AI learn the more nurturing female-dominant stress response of tend and befriend too?

Shaping AI’s Values: A Human Responsibility

As AI continues to learn from humans, it inevitably absorbs the spectrum of our values.

This presents a profound leadership challenge — we must ensure AI learns from an ethical and morally sound foundation. Our decisions, driven by our values, will shape AI’s behaviour and choices.

But this isn’t the sole responsibility of those in senior and formal leadership roles. This is a responsibility that every one of us must assume and keep at the forefront of our minds when interacting with – or in the presence – of any AI.

Ethical Dilemmas in an AI World

The real-world applications of AI, such as self-driving cars, introduce complex ethical dilemmas.

Consider the scenario where an autonomous vehicle must make a split-second choice: to protect a young child, an elderly lady or veer into a designer handbag store. This decision becomes an embodiment of the values AI has absorbed. It’s evident that AI will possess values, and those values will mirror humanity’s own.

Will AI learn that material possessions are what we truly value of compassion for our fellow humans? Do our actions suggest we care more about the health of the planet we inhabit or convenience and instant gratification?

Yet, the pivotal question remains: How can we ensure AI chooses ethically and in humanity’s best interests?

The Power of Values in Leadership

For effective leadership, the comprehension of our values is paramount. In an era where AI’s influence is accelerating, this understanding takes on heightened significance. As AI’s decisions are an extension of our values, leaders must assume the responsibility of defining and upholding ethical standards.

Rather than allowing AI to mirror the darker facets of human nature, leaders can – and must – actively guide it to embody the best aspects of humanity.

Leadership’s Dual Responsibility

I fundamentally believe that a leader’s job is to support, develop and look after those we have the privilege and responsibility to lead so that they can deliver the results we’re accountable for.

In an era defined by AI advancements, the duality of a leader’s role becomes even more significant. Leadership must encompass not only the execution of tasks but also the nurturing of individuals. As AI introduces transformative changes, leadership must adapt by prioritizing empathy, collaboration, and human development.

Nurturing AI for Humanity

AI’s boundless potential for progress encompasses realms like medicine and climate change. To harness this potential and steer us away from the Skynet scenario in the Terminator movies, every decision and task we outsource to AI must be grounded in sound values and ethics, from the minutiae of daily operations to sweeping strategic choices.

Similar to our role in moulding human offspring, we are responsible for being “good parents” to our AI creations — infusing them with ethical principles that mirror the best of humanity.

The Promise of Ethical AI Leadership

In conclusion, Gawdat’s insights underscore that AI’s emergence highlights the importance of principled leadership. While AI introduces challenges, its ultimate contribution to humanity hinges on our capacity to instil it with robust values and a solid ethical compass.

As leaders, our role extends beyond profit; we serve as stewards of the technological revolution and the values that define us.

So, lead on, embracing AI’s challenges and opportunities, steering its course toward a future that encapsulates the finest aspects of humanity. By doing so, we will usher in an era where AI flourishes not as a challenge to our essence but to amplify the best of humanity.


Further Resources

Get clear on your core values with my FREE Values Toolkit.

Buy Mo Gawdat’s book on Amazon here.


Image courtesy of Google Deepmind

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