ITL #579  The future of AI: ethical development, regulation and education take center stage

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Key guidelines to help communications leaders ensure organisations uphold claims of trustworthy and responsible AI development. By Svetlana Stavreva.



Since its emergence in late 2022, generative AI (gen AI) has fascinated business leaders and society. McKinsey research suggests that gen AI could create $2.6 to $4.4 trillion in value annually, transforming work and life. A Forbes survey shows that while 50% of C-suite executives have significant legal or ethical concerns, 46% still plan to use it if they haven't already.

As we enter a new AI-driven era, the conversation needs to shift from what AI can do to how it should be developed and implemented responsibly in society.

Ethical and responsible AI in the lead

Public demand for AI technologies that are developed with integrity and moral values is growing and is well justified. As AI becomes an integral part of everyday life, issues such as privacy, bias, transparency and accountability are critical. Ethical AI development must respect individual rights and societal values.

Communications leaders have an important role to play in ensuring that their organisations uphold the claims of trustworthy and responsible AI development. Here are key guidelines for PR professionals introducing new AI-based innovations:

  • Inform stakeholders: Ensure stakeholders understand the purpose of the innovation, the algorithms (are they open?), how data will be used, and how bias and privacy concerns will be addressed. Prioritise updating the press room and implementing a comprehensive communications plan.
  • Identify AI content: Clearly label AI-generated content.
  • Seek feedback: Organize regular face-to-face feedback sessions with stakeholders to build trust and ensure sustainable brand performance.
  • Address concerns: By addressing potential AI concerns, leaders can ensure innovation is aligned with broader values and public needs.
  • Improve practices: Use feedback to develop checklists and tools to help the PR community adhere to ethical values and approaches in AI.

This approach will help align AI innovation with societal values and promote trust and accountability in AI leverage.

The need for solid regulation and policy development

Robust regulation and policy development are essential to guide the development and deployment of AI. Governments and international bodies - such as IPRA - are instrumental in creating standards and best practices to ensure that AI technologies are safe, fair and beneficial to society.

For example, the EU Parliament's AI Act aims to protect fundamental rights, democracy and environmental sustainability from high-risk AI, while promoting innovation. In the US, while Congress is considering potential legislation, several cities and states have enacted regulations restricting AI use in areas such as police investigations. President Biden has also directed government agencies to review AI for threats to national security or economic stability. These collective efforts underscore that innovation should not compromise ethical standards or societal well-being.

In line with our mission to provide intellectual leadership in global communications, we at IPRA launched a set of AI and PR Guidelines some time ago as a starting point for our in-depth work in this area. These initial guidelines were a starting point to remind us that AI content has both the potential to enhance public relations and the potential for bias, misuse, deception and harm.

Communications leaders can bridge the gap between regulatory expectations and industry capabilities. By leveraging their skills and fostering industry dialogue, they can help create a regulatory framework that encourages innovation while protecting societal interests.

Consistent with our mission for intellectual leadership in global communication, some time ago we in IPRA have launched a set of AI and PR Guidelines as a starting point for our deep dive work in this area. The aim was to remind ourselves that while AI tools can help and enhance public relations, AI also has the potential for bias, abuse, deception and harm.

Communications leaders can bridge the gap between regulatory expectations and industry capabilities. By leveraging their skills and fostering industrial dialogues, they can help establish a framework that promotes innovation while safeguarding societal interests.

Technological advances and public awareness in focus

Technological advances are crucial to the future of AI, highlighting the need for continued innovation to make AI more efficient and capable of tackling complex challenges. Equally important is improving public awareness and education about the potential, limitations and ethical use of AI.

A major challenge is the rapid pace of AI breakthroughs, which leaves little time for understanding and reflection. Communications professionals and departments have an important role to play in addressing this by:

  • Raising awareness.
  • Establishing a "warning system" to assess innovations and inform stakeholders.
  • Creating engaging content and working with media and influencers to spread knowledge.

This approach helps build trust between organisations and stakeholders, counter misinformation and promote the responsible use of AI. An informed public is essential for the ethical integration of AI technologies.

Conclusion: A vision for the future of AI

There is a strong consensus on the need for ethical considerations and responsible development in the AI sector. While technological advances are crucial, they must be accompanied by ethical frameworks, regulatory oversight and an informed public.

As communication professionals, we have a responsibility to shape a future where AI pushes technological boundaries while ensuring that benefits are inclusive, sustainable and widely shared, and risks are managed. Together, we can navigate the complexities of AI and ensure that it serves as a force for good, promoting ethical standards and societal well-being.

  • This article is based on a survey I initiated. I am very grateful for the responses I received from people in places such as EMEA, the US and Asia. It was first published on Fobes here.


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The Author

Svetlana Stavreva

Svetlana Stavreva, IPRA Board Member and former IPRA President (2019-20).

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