Our society is digitizing more and more. This creates opportunities to work more efficiently, for example, but also raises many ethical questions. For this purpose, TU Delft has opened the Digital Ethics Center. Here researchers can look at the ethical side of AI and digitization together with government institutions and companies, such as fairness, security and transparency; and develop the right solutions and applications through research.
How do we keep the use of AI fair, inclusive, transparent and secure? What does human-centric and responsible use of AI look like? Digital technology is being used pretty much all over society. But companies and institutions do not always know how to deal with these technological innovations. Does the term ‘transparency’ in the pharmaceutical industry mean the same as in recruitment? When is an algorithm ‘fair’? How do we prevent another Allowance Affair? What is the best way to use digital technologies, such as AI, without sacrificing important human values?
Fundamental and practical research
The TU Delft Digital Ethics Center was established for this purpose. The strength of the new research center is that engineers and ethicists work together here. The center is an initiative of Jeroen van den Hoven, professor of Ethics and Technology: “Bringing together the soft side, the philosophy, and the hard side, the technology, is a success formula.” In addition to fundamental research, work will also be done on practical research questions arising from the business community and institutions. An example is the collaboration with UWV† Van den Hoven: “UWV is a large organization that regulates our social security. Just like with the tax authorities, a lot can go wrong there. UWV wants to handle the collection and interpretation of data in an ethically responsible manner. The TU Delft Digital Ethics Center can help with that.”
Van den Hoven gives another example. “Together with banks, we will look into suspicious transactions. Banks would like to use AI to detect fraud, but this must be done neatly, in line with ethical values such as privacy and equality. In Delft we have both the knowledge of the technology and the ethical knowledge in-house.”
Technological and ethical knowledge
Geert-Jan Houben, pro vice rector AI at TU Delft, adds: “The question is not just: what can we do with AI, but above all: what do we want to do with it? You can only discover that if you really understand what the technology is all about. That is an exciting, joint development between technology and application, and that is exactly what we at TU Delft are strong in.”
The Digital Ethics Center is in line with TU Delft’s ambitions to take on a leading role in the field of AI and in the field of a digital society.