The ethics of AI-powered software development: the ethical implications and how to address them

The ethics of AI-powered software development: the ethical implications and how to address them

Artificial intelligence (AI) has created many interesting opportunities to improve and speed up software development. But ever since the emergence of the technology, there have been serious concerns about the ethical dilemmas posed by artificial intelligence. After all, AI brings forward the possibility of machines that can think for themselves. In this article, we’ll take a look at the major ethical questions and issues that might arise from the large-scale adoption of AI-driven software development.

Existing ethical frameworks addressing AI


There are already a few frameworks concerned with the ethics of AI. The most important ones are:


Using AI-driven technology in software development means dealing with a lot of ethical questions and challenges. Let’s take a look at the major ones.

Ethics and AI-driven software development: the important questions and dilemmas


Who has or should have access to the technology? And how can we ensure that the technology behind AI-driven software development is affordable and accessible to everyone? 


How might new technology exacerbate existing social and economic inequalities? And how can software developers and tech companies address these inequalities? There is a serious risk that large companies will try to protect or increase their market share, creating new AI monopolies.


How can we protect individual privacy in the age of big data and ubiquitous surveillance? And how do we ensure that new technology is free from prejudice and discrimination and does not perpetuate existing inequalities? To give you an example: because ChatGPT stores data outside European borders, privacy is at risk when you use this AI tool.


How can we hold companies and individuals accountable for the impact of their technology on society? AI will shake up the job market and jobs will be lost. Software development and the ongoing automation trend in the industry have already resulted in the loss or reduction of many jobs and professions in the past 30 years (think video stores, production lines, heavy industry  and more).



How can we ensure that individuals remain in control of their own lives and decisions, even as technology becomes ever more omnipresent? How do developers deal with letting go of control over their own thinking? After they were first classified according to interests in social media apps and streaming services (the bubbles), developers are now also increasingly reprogrammed in fixed frameworks. What autonomy will remain for developers in the future?


How can we ensure that new technology is safe and does not pose unnecessary risks to individuals or society as a whole? Who can be held responsible if AI in a car system (for example Tesla Autopilot) or healthcare environment causes accidents or even human casualties?


How should new technology be regulated and who should be responsible for overseeing its development and use? What about intellectual property and copyright if AI produces a solution that is already patented?

Social impact

How will new technology in the realm of AI-driven software development affect society as a whole? And what steps can we take to ensure that it is deployed in a way that benefits society and contributes to the common good? 


The solution: ethical guiding principles for AI-driven development

The aforementioned challenges can be addressed by using a set of ethical guiding principles for the adoption of AI-driven software development. Such guidelines should cover:

  • Human control. AI shouldn’t replace or limit the autonomy of software developers, but rather complete it. Humans must oversee AI systems and call the shots when it comes to labelling the decisions that the software makes as either ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. 
  • Robust and airtight security. All systems that use and incorporate AI technology should be strongly protected against external attacks and reliable in their decision-making processes. All gathered data must be kept private.
  • Transparency. All AI systems, even the more complex ones, should be understandable and fathomable for the general public. 
  • Diversity. AI systems should be developed for and available to all humankind regardless of age, gender, race, or any other characteristic. Additionally, none of those characteristics should be used to bias the results and decisions made by the AI algorithms.
  • The greater good. AI-driven software development should pursue sustainability and try to enhance positive social change.
  • Accountability. AI-driven software development should be auditable. This allows developers to minimise the negative impact of AI systems.

Striking the right balance

As AI becomes more pervasive, it is crucial to carefully consider the ethical implications of its use in software development projects. Developers have a crucial role in creating best practices for ethical AI-driven software development and exploring strategies to ensure that this technology is used in a responsible and ethical manner, safeguarding not only functionality but also security, transparency and equality.