Engineers share responsibility for decisions regarding AI systems

  • The EU states have adopted stricter rules for artificial intelligence (AI) in the European Union. VDI expert Dieter Westerkamp emphasizes the importance of the final decision and responsibility being with humans. This is essential, above all, for the ethical principles of the engineering profession

The EU has finally passed the AI ​​Act. This is the first time that EU states have laid down rules for the use of artificial intelligence. It is the first law of its kind in the world and can set a global standard for the regulation of AI. A central point of the law stipulates that AI systems are as transparent, comprehensible and non-discriminatory as possible.

An important aspect here is that the AI ​​systems are monitored by people - not technical systems. This means that the final decision and responsibility remains in human hands. This point is clearly supported by the VDI. In its " Ethical Principles of the Engineering Profession " from 2021, the VDI states: "Engineers are aware that when delegating operational and strategic support and decision-making services to autonomous AI-based systems, responsibility must ultimately remain with humans." This is not just about artificial intelligence itself. "We have to look at the overall systems in which AI is used," says Dieter Westerkamp, ​​Head of Technology and Society at the Association of German Engineers. "We have therefore formulated in our ethical principles that engineers ensure that decisions made by AI systems are always comprehensible and plausible. They also share responsibility for the systemic effects - not only of the developed subsystem itself, but also for its effects in an overall system or network."

The VDI took the emergence of widespread AI use and autonomous systems as an opportunity to revise and supplement its ethical principles.

Regardless of this, the VDI sees the great opportunities offered by technologies based on artificial intelligence. We absolutely have to stay on the ball here in order to continue to be able to offer competitive products and services with integrated AI on the global market in the future. "It is good that in Germany we are currently in second place worldwide in terms of the number of patents. Now we need to use this as a basis to develop suitable products and services that comply with the AI ​​​​law," says Westerkamp.

Further technical standardization for AI is necessary. It will follow and ensure transparency in the use of AI.

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