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Robbins, S. (2019). AI and the path to envelopment: knowledge as a first step towards the responsible regulation and use of AI-powered machines. AI & SOCIETY.


With Artificial Intelligence (AI) entering our lives in novel ways—both known and unknown to us—there is both the enhancement of existing ethical issues associated with AI as well as the rise of new ethical issues. There is much focus on opening up the ‘black box’ of modern machine-learning algorithms to understand the reasoning behind their decisions—especially morally salient decisions. However, some applications of AI which are no doubt beneficial to society rely upon these black boxes. Rather than requiring algorithms to be transparent we should focus on constraining AI and those machines powered by AI within microenvironments—both physical and virtual—which allow these machines to realize their function whilst preventing harm to humans. In the field of robotics this is called ‘envelopment’. However, to put an ‘envelope’ around AI-powered machines we need to know some basic things about them which we are often in the dark about. The properties we need to know are the: training data, inputs, functions, outputs, and boundaries. This knowledge is a necessary first step towards the envelopment of AI-powered machines. It is only with this knowledge that we can responsibly regulate, use, and live in a world populated by these machines.