TU Delft has launched the Digital Ethics Centre for fair and safe AI
Our society is digitising itself more and more. That offers opportunities, such as more efficient working, but it also raises many ethical questions – the sort of questions now being addressed by TU Delft’s new Digital Ethics Centre. Together with government agencies and companies, the centre’s researchers are looking at the ethical side of AI and digitalisation, such as fairness, safety and transparency, and seeking to develop the best solutions and applications.
How do we keep the use of AI fair, inclusive, transparent and safe? What does human-centred and responsible AI look like? Digital technology can be found pretty much in every corner of our society. But companies and institutions don’t always know how to deal with technological innovations.
The TU Delft Digital Ethics Centre will explore issues such as whether or not the concept transparency means the same thing in the pharmaceutical industry as it does in recruitment; when an algorithm is ‘fair’; how we can prevent the next ’Toeslagenaffaire’; and what we can do to use digital technologies such as AI without sacrificing important human values.
Fundamental and practical research
The TU Delft Digital Ethics Centre is a place where engineers and ethicists work together. It is an initiative from Jeroen van den Hoven, professor of Ethics and Technology: "Bringing together the soft side, the philosophy, and the hard side, the technology, is a formula for success."
Alongside fundamental research, work will also be done on practical research questions from industry and institutions. One example is the collaboration with UWV. Van den Hoven: "UWV is a large organisation that regulates our social security. A lot can go wrong, as was seen recently with the tax authorities. UWV wants to deal with data collection and interpretation in an ethically responsible way, and the TU Delft Digital Ethics Centre can help with that."
Technological and ethical knowledge
Van den Hoven gives another example. "Together with banks, we are going to look at suspicious transactions. Banks would like to use AI to detect fraud, but this has to be done cleanly, in line with ethical values such as privacy and equality. In Delft we have both the knowledge of technology and the ethical knowledge needed to ensure that."
Geert-Jan Houben, pro vice rector of AI at TU Delft: "The question is not only what we can do with AI, but above all what we want to do with it? You can only discover that when you really understand what the technology entails. That requires an exciting joint development between technology and application, and it’s exactly what we at TU Delft are good at."
The Digital Ethics Centre reflects TU Delft's ambitions to take a leading role in the field of AI and in the field of a digital society.
At TU Delft, scientists are working on a responsible digital transition together with companies and social partners. On the one hand, we are designing and building the foundations that will make this digital transition possible: the artificial intelligence, algorithms, robots, cyber security and (quantum) internet that will make our lives and work faster and much more effective. We are also pioneers of a better digital society – one that increases our wellbeing. A digital society that monitors what makes us human, keeps us healthy and is designed to be equitable and inclusive. The right approach can help to build cities and ports sustainably and safely, accelerate the energy transition and combat climate change.