IEEE Launches New Standard to Address Ethical Concerns During Systems Design


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IEEE, the world's largest technical professional organization dedicated to advancing technology for humanity, and the IEEE Standards Association (IEEE SA) announced the launch of IEEE 7000™-2021 - IEEE Standard Model Process for Addressing Ethical Concerns During System Design that provides a clear methodology to analyze human and social values relevant for an ethical system engineering effort.

IEEE 7000-2021 is recommended for use by organizations that seek to apply broader ethical value criteria and minimize risk, thereby helping to strengthen relationships with their end users and customers. Organizations may apply this first of its kind standard across multiple levels including concept exploration, system requirements definition, or development of new or revised products or services.

“Engineers, their managers, and other stakeholders benefit from well-defined processes for considering ethical issues along with the usual concerns of system performance and functionality early in the system life cycle,” said Konstantinos Karachalios, Managing Director of IEEE SA. “End users can be unaware of the ethical considerations regarding the products and services they use; this is why IEEE supported the launch of the IEEE 7000 series of standards including this standard that also complements our Ethics Certification Program for Autonomous and Intelligent Systems (ECPAIS) certification criteria offering. It is only by rigorously prioritizing ethical concerns at the outset of design that manufacturers, engineers, and technologists can responsibly align products and services with results honoring the contextual values of customers, citizens, and society at large.”

This standard provides:

  • a system engineering standard approach integrating human and social values into traditional systems engineering and design.
  • processes for engineers to translate stakeholder values and ethical considerations into system requirements and design practices.
  • a systematic, transparent, and traceable approach to address ethically-oriented regulatory obligations in the design of autonomous intelligent systems.

“Value-based Engineering (VbE), a methodology providing ways to elicit, conceptualize, prioritize and respect end user values in system design, is at the heart of IEEE 7000-2021 and provides companies with a highly practical approach to master the values based challenges of their digital transformation,” said Dr. Sarah Spiekermann, Chair of The Institute for Information Systems & Society at Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU Vienna) and Vice-Chair of IEEE 7000-2021. "IEEE 7000-2021 test users identified ten issues per person involved in the project, demonstrating that the utilization of value-based Engineering can lead to fewer project risks and exponential innovation. This is a massive improvement relative to current technical roadmap processes."

A key part of digital transformation provided by IEEE 7000-2021 comes in addressing risk. Where traditional evaluations of technological risk may focus largely on areas of physical harm, the VbE methodology provides a broader lens to consider also potential value harms associated with product or systems design. This makes the standard unique and deeply important in terms of ease of adoption of applied ethics methodologies in emerging technologies such as AI.

The use of this standard could help organizations better earn and keep the trust of end-users and stakeholders by directly addressing ethical concerns upfront, leading to greater market acceptance of their products, services, or systems.

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