Fixing the Internet

What are we building? 

Ethical Trust (ET) software technology analyzes, measures, and quantifies specific components of Trust. Ethical Trust outputs data points (numbers) that are used to implement targeted strategies to optimize levels of trust between parties and to develop and maintain ethical standards.

The paradigm was originally developed for a major Wall Street firm in response to the question: What does the phrase ‘the financial system is built on trust’ really mean? Ethical Trust was the answer - a practical computational philosophy that reflects how trust operates throughout society.

We are now looking into how the ET model can be applied to “Fixing the Internet”. For example, the model will be applied to NLP, unlocking how a machine learns to interact with human speech – interpreting human language and generating text based on a sophisticated undergirding of trust. The ET model will help A.I. navigate complex ethical and moral scenarios, such as assessing content with in-depth trust scorings - with room for human curation as needed. Ethical Trust will help correct mathematical biases often attributed to Machine Learning. Integrating the ET model into A.I. “safety” systems will help prevent or reduce the impact of unintended consequences. We have only begun to imagine the possibilities.

The underlying model was originally designed in 2012 as part of an educational program for Merrill Lynch. A few years later, working with The Center of Ethics at St. Thomas University, we created a business curriculum (renamed Ethical Trust) that integrated trust with ethics. Independently, the Ethical Trust model is now being developed as a software technology. With its matrix hierarchical structures – and its capability to quantify the amorphous qualities of trust and ethics – the technology has important implications for the development of Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and The Internet. 

What problem do we solve?

Let’s put the problem in human terms. A mafia-crime family has codes of ethics and honor – with a dramatic system of rewards and punishment. The result is a community with high levels of trust between ‘family’ members. The upshot is an efficient crime syndicate – ethical in its own circle but immoral from a greater community perspective. The Internet may not be immoral, as it is not human. But it is an amoral machine – dependent on our programming.

Can the Internet be fixed? In the last few years, issues surrounding trust and ethics regarding The Internet, Artificial Intelligence, and technology have become one of society’s greatest concerns. Developing workable, ethical models for our modern technologies have been elusive. Ethics and morality are qualitative, amorphous topics. As much as we would like to imbue A.I. with human qualities, it is still no more than a collection of machine algorithms. The real challenge is that the solution is as much about metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophy as it is about mathematics, programming, and computer technology. 

Can Ethical Trust help? Ethical Trust utilizes a ‘visual’, hierarchical, multi-dimensional model that optimizes trust between different parties. The goal is real-world oriented - optimizing trust as much as possible - between stakeholders with conflicting interests. It also includes a moral dimension that can be used to align the system to higher principles.

What is our long-term company vision?

The goal is to create a philosophical-technological paradigm that is adaptable to A.I. Machine Learning, as well as business verticals (both profit and not-for-profit). Ideally, Ethical Trust will be widely adopted as an innovative prism with which to view the world from a trust-based ethical perspective. Even though the goals are high reaching, we do not lose sight of the fact that we must begin with simple, achievable, and pragmatic first-steps, focusing on how Ethical Trust can impact one project at a time. 

What do we know:

Trust and Ethics are difficult to measure and manage as they are usually considered to be qualitative, amorphous topics. Ethical Trust is different in that it quantifies Trust in detail. There are a few methodologies that attempt to measure and score trust. However, none come close to doing it in such a comprehensive manner as Ethical Trust - up to 26 metrics, including 6 Characteristics, 3 Dimensions, and 2 Qualities. In addition, there is a Moral Aspect that can be used to align the system to higher principles. 

What substitutes do people resort to because they don't know our product exists?

Organizations expend enormous amounts of human capital and money to avoid and mitigate problems caused by the loss of trust and from breaches in ethical standards. A short list includes:  Teams of lawyers managing never ending legal liabilities and litigation; Entire divisions assessing problematic online content; Compliance mandating onerous ethics training programs – that often increase mistrust between all parties.

Ethical Trust is a pro-active, positive initiative that optimizes levels of trust between stakeholders in the real world and online virtually.

 What do we understand about our business or customers that other companies in the space just don't get?

Today, high-levels of Trust and Ethics are vital to the success of every organization, including tech companies that are racing to manage the loss of trust with the public – and the implied loss of ethical standards – especially in regards to The Internet. The challenge: Trust and Ethics are difficult to measure and manage as they are usually considered to be qualitative, amorphous topics. 

Ethical Trust quantifies trust in a comprehensive manner - up to 26 metrics, including 6 Characteristics, 3 Dimensions, and 2 Qualities. In addition, there is a Moral Aspect that can be used to align the system to higher principles. It uses an easy-to-conceptualize (visualize), hierarchical grid (or matrix.)  The ET model also acknowledges the complexity of real-world systems or scenarios by the “optimization of trust” amongst multiple parties with conflicting interests. 

Ultimately the goal of Ethics is about creating quality, trusting relationships – whether it is between people, organizations, or a vast global network of computers. 

Ethical Trust is a cloud-based technology that can be integrated into any organizational workflow. In addition, the technology will be adapted to improve trust and ethics in the context of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.

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