Who knew having standards would be so hard?

(Image from P7010 Intro: http://sites.ieee.org/sagroups-7010/)

The adventures of developing an IEEE Standard for AI/AS & Wellbeing

I am about a year and a half into what will likely be a three year journey in helping develop a standard for how companies developing AI/AS can use in order to reflect on, measure, analyze, and consider the ramifications of their product on the wellbeing of us, humans.

As the standard is still in development, I can’t give you all the details on specifically what we are including, but you can get an overview of the project and download the approved short paper on it, here.

In short, a number of people (which could include you – it’s an open group!) including myself have been collaborating on developing what will be an initial framework for evaluating the effects of AI/AS on human wellbeing. 

As a software-web-mobile “techie” I must say I have been underwhelmed by the technologies used to support standards development, but to be fair IEEE historically has dealt more with manufacturing standards (batteries, power systems, etc.) and has had to move rapidly to evolve into incorporating standards for new technologies. In addition to the P7010 Working Group that I am a part of, “Wellbeing for Ethical AI – Wellbeing Metrics Standard for Ethical Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems,” which relates to the Ethics and Autonomous and Intelligent Systems Initiative, there are other initiatives for other up-and-coming technologies within IoT. 

Part of what has been interesting about this process is how long it takes. In many ways, I see part of the value of what we are doing, in how we are spending the time amongst our group, to do this work, so that this same process doesn’t have to be carried out within each individual organization that may be implementing AI/AS, and those organizations can simply build upon our work. 

Another part of what I have enjoyed is the completely linear organizational structure. Technically, there are a few roles that oversee the group and lead it, which is hugely important, but aside from that, everyone else is just a member, and no one has more or less power than another. While yes, there are members from Fortune 500 companies represented, there are also solopreneurs and a range of other organizational types and sizes represented. While names and affiliations are recorded by the secretary, one’s affiliation has no sway on whether or not you are counted as a voting member – this is strictly based on established attendance rules, and all attendees are held equally to these standards. 

At the same time, trying to meld the opinions and viewpoints of all these disparate groups of people with vastly different experiences is part of the challenge that makes developing a standard such a lengthy process. I personally admire the organizers’ leadership in guiding the group and encouraging open converstation that follows, in many ways, the appreciative inquiry methods of seeking to build upon shared vision while keeping things positive, in order to encourage creativity and sharing. 

This is the closest I have come to participating in politics or government and I can definitely say it is challenging, yet rewarding. However, with this experience as a base, I don’t know if I would have the mental stamina for the more drawn-out processes involved in actual politics/governmental change processes. Still, hopefully this standard can be used to help influence those in politics as they seek to develop city/state/etc. ordinances.


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