Benjamin Lange is Director of Compass Ethics and COO of BablAI, one of the first AI audit consultancies. In the interview he explains what inspired him to explore the field of philosophy, (AI) ethics and responsible innovation as well as shares tips and tools to enable your responsible innovation journey.
What is that you do in the field of Responsible Innovation?
In my academic role, I conduct research into various issues related to responsible innovation. At the moment, for example, I am looking more specifically at the way in which existing frameworks can be adapted to be better operationalized in practice. In my practitioner role, I work with organizations of all shapes and sizes to help them build capabilities, structures, policies to ensure that they can innovate in ways that are ethically sound and in line with their own values and commitments.
How do you define a Responsible Innovator?
That’s a good question. Here’s a take: A “Responsible Innovator” is someone who has understood the ethical dimensions of the research and development that they are conducting in a way that lets them fluidly apply and translate this awareness in their day-to-day decision-making and innovative work.
What made you choose this career path?
To be honest, I kind of slid into this by accident. I started to explore strategy consulting on organizational ethics during my university studies - I really enjoyed consulting work – and then things went from there.
It is still a new field of expertise. How did you become an expert in this field?
I don’t like self-designated “expert” labels. What I try to combine, however, is my interest and background in philosophical ethics and moral philosophy with an eye to applying this to pressing real-world ethical problems in the space of responsible innovation.
What recommendations for trainings do you have?
I think it can help to get some more formal training in the form of a university degree on philosophy, ethics, tech ethics, etc. but I don’t think this is a must do. At BABL we have a range of courses on finding your place in the AI Ethics and Responsible Innovation that might be of interest.
Which publications do you recommend to dive deep into the topic?
Three pieces that I have recently enjoyed reading and would strongly recommend are:
This is Technology Ethics: An Introduction (This is Philosophy) by Sven Nyholm
Ethics for People Who Work in Tech by Marc Steen
“Using the Veil of Ignorance to align AI systems with principles of justice” by Laura Weidinger et al at Deepmind
Which other Responsible Innovators or professionals inspire you? (Name at least 5 plus job title/company)
Sven Nyholm, Professor of Ethics of AI, LMU
Ted Lechterman, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, IE University
Geoff Keeling, Research Scientist, Google
Iason Gabriel, Ethics Research, Deepmind
Jovana Davidovic, Associate Professor of Philosophy at University of Iowa, Senior Fellow at the Stockdale Center for Ethical Leadership at the United States Naval Academy, Chief Ethics Officer, BABLAI
Why do we need responsible innovation?
I think responsible innovation both as a research field and in practice is a vital component in ensuring that as we continue to research and create new technologies, we always do so in a way that is conducive to and prioritizes human flourishing.
Which obstacles did you need to overcome when choosing this career path?
I think a main obstacle has been that there was no clear field of AI Ethics and Responsible Innovation consulting yet. Much of that has and is still emerging as we speak, which is, of course, an exciting opportunity for others to join and partake too.
How can responsible innovation help you to achieve your goals?
In the business case, I am a firm believer that developing technology responsibly goes ultimately hand-in-hand with business success.
Where do you keep yourself informed about the topic?
It’s a mix of news-alerts, linked-in- newsletters, research, as well as client conversations and experiences.
What are the 5 most important hacks to successfully implement responsible innovation?
For developing new technology:
Understand the ethical facets and dimensions of your work in the context of your work
Begin by considering the different possibilities and paths that your tech could take
Ask yourself: What are possible things that could go wrong? Who is going to be affected and how? What are the underlying ethical issues?
Derive concrete steps and metrics that you could take to act on 3.
Act on them and monitor progress.
Which events/conferences are most important to you in 2023?
In the Responsible Innovators Insights series experts from the ecosystem explain how they got into their field of expertise and share helpful tools to enable your responsible innovation journey.