Third principle: Understanding
AI enabled systems, and their outputs, must be appropriately understood by relevant individuals, with mechanisms to enable this understanding made an explicit part of system design. Effective and ethical decision making in Defence, from the frontline of combat to back office operations, is always underpinned by appropriate understanding of context by those making decisions. Defence personnel must have an appropriate, context specific understanding of the AI enabled systems they operate and work alongside. This level of understanding will naturally differ depending on the knowledge required to act ethically in a given role and with a given system. It may include an understanding of the general characteristics, benefits and limitations of AI systems. It may require knowledge of a system’s purposes and correct environment for use, including scenarios where a system should not be deployed or used. It may also demand an understanding of system performance and potential fail states. Our people must be suitably trained and competent to operate or understand these tools. To enable this understanding, we must be able to verify that our AI enabled systems work as intended. While the ‘black box’ nature of some machine learning systems means that they are difficult to fully explain, we must be able to audit either the systems or their outputs to a level that satisfies those who are duly and formally responsible and accountable. Mechanisms to interpret and understand our systems must be a crucial and explicit part of system design across the entire lifecycle. This requirement for context specific understanding based on technically understandable systems must also reach beyond the MOD, to commercial suppliers, allied forces and civilians. Whilst absolute transparency as to the workings of each AI enabled system is neither desirable nor practicable, public consent and collaboration depend on context specific shared understanding. What our systems do, how we intend to use them, and our processes for ensuring beneficial outcomes result from their use should be as transparent as possible, within the necessary constraints of the national security context.
Published by The Ministry of Defence (MOD), United Kingdom in Ethical Principles for AI in Defence, Jun 15, 2022