IEEE Releases New Ethical Considerations for Autonomous and Intelligent Systems

The second version covers affective computing, mixed reality, and well-being

16 January 2018

The latest version of “Ethically Aligned Design: A Vision for Prioritizing Human Well-being With Autonomous and Intelligent Systems” is now available. More than 200 global thought leaders helped create the 263-page document, making it the most comprehensive, crowdsourced global treatise about ethics of such systems, according to the IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA).

The new version includes five additional sections: affective computing; classical ethics in autonomous and intelligent systems; mixed reality; policy; and well-being. It also contains updated content from the eight committees that created the initial version.

The first version was released last year by the IEEE Global Initiative on Ethics of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems. An IEEE Standards Association Industry Connections activity, the initiative aims to bring together technologists, ethicists, policymakers, business leaders, and end users to ensure those involved in developing technologies are educated, trained, and empowered to make ethical considerations a priority. The initiative’s job is to determine how best to uphold human rights, prioritize the systems’ benefits for humanity and the environment, and mitigate risks and negative impact.

“IEEE—through the global initiative, the evolving ‘Ethically Aligned Design’ document, and other associated activities—is following through on a commitment to engage global communities in creating practical guidelines that will help ensure the development of ethically aligned autonomous and intelligent products, services, and systems,” IEEE-SA Managing Director Konstantinos Karachalios said in an announcement about the release. “Toward that end, it is imperative that we create consensus about how these technology platforms may explicitly support and prioritize human values and well-being. In doing so, we will overcome current sensationalism and fears associated therewith and we will be able to maximize the potential benefits autonomous and intelligent systems can bring for humanity.”

You can download the entire new version in English, or the executive summary, for free. It was released under the Attribution-Noncommercial section of the Creative Commons license so any organization can adopt or use it.

Related: Special Report: Ethics in Engineering


IEEE-SA is seeking input for the third iteration. Contribute your suggestions by 12 March using the submission guidelines document. The initiative is particularly looking for feedback on areas such as reframing autonomous weapons systems, as well as personal data and individual access control.

All submissions are to be posted in a public document, to be available in April.

The initiative and the ethically aligned design documents contribute to a broader effort to foster open, broad, and inclusive conversation about ethics in technology: the IEEE TechEthics program.

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