Bosch develops a code of ethics for AI

Stuttgart, Germany

Bosch has established ethical “red lines” for the use of artificial intelligence (AI). The company has now issued guidelines governing the use of AI in its intelligent products.

Bosch’s AI code of ethics is based on the following maxim: Humans should be the ultimate arbiter of any AI-based decisions. “Artificial intelligence should serve people. Our AI code of ethics provides our associates with clear guidance regarding the development of intelligent products,” Bosch CEO Volkmar Denner said at the opening of Bosch Connectedworld (BCW), the company’s annual IoT conference in Berlin. “Our goal is that people should trust our AI-based products.”

AI is a technology of vital importance for Bosch. By 2025, the aim is for all Bosch products to either contain AI or have been developed or manufactured with its help. The company wants its AI-based products to be safe, robust, and explainable. “If AI is a black box, then people won’t trust it. In a connected world, however, trust will be essential,” said Michael Bolle, the Bosch CDO and CTO. Bosch is aiming to produce AI-based products that are trustworthy. The code of ethics is based on Bosch’s “Invented for life” ethos, which combines a quest for innovation with a sense of social responsibility.

Over the next two years, Bosch plans to train 20,000 of its associates in the use of AI. Bosch’s AI code of ethics governing the responsible use of this technology will be part of this training programme.

AI offers major potential

Artificial intelligence is a global engine of progress and growth. The management consultants PwC, for example, project that between now and 2030, AI will boost GDP in China by 26 percent, by 14 percent in North America, and by around 10 percent in Europe. This technology can help overcome challenges such as the need for climate action and optimise outcomes in a host of areas such as transportation, medicine, and agriculture. By analysing huge volumes of data, algorithms are able to reason and make decisions. Well in advance of the introduction of binding EU standards, Bosch has therefore taken the decision to actively engage with the ethical questions that the use of this technology raises. The moral foundation for this process is provided by the values enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Humans should retain control

Bosch’s AI code of ethics stipulates that artificial intelligence should not make any decisions about humans without this process being subject to some form of human oversight. Instead, artificial intelligence should serve people as a tool. Three possible approaches are described. All have the following in common: in AI-based products developed by Bosch, humans should retain control over any decisions the technology makes.

The importance of trust

Bosch also hopes its AI code of ethics will contribute to public debate on artificial intelligence. “AI will change every aspect of our lives,” Denner said. “For this reason, such a debate is vital.” It will take more than just technical know-how to establish trust in intelligent systems – there is also a need for close dialogue among policymakers, the scientific community, and the general public. This is why Bosch has signed up to the High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence, a body appointed by the European Commission to examine issues such as the ethical dimension of AI. 


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