The Wall Street Journal
Originally posted September 26, 2019
Here is an excerpt:
Associated with these exploding data volumes are plenty of practical challenges to overcome—storage, networking, and security, to name just a few—but far less straightforward are the serious ethical concerns. Data may promise untold opportunity to solve some of the largest problems facing humanity today, but it also has the potential to cause great harm due to human negligence, naivety, and deliberate malfeasance, Patil pointed out. From data breaches to accidents caused by self-driving vehicles to algorithms that incorporate racial biases, “we must expect to see the harm from data increase.”
Health care data may be particularly fraught with challenges. “MRIs and countless other data elements are all digitized, and that data is fragmented across thousands of databases with no easy way to bring it together,” Patil said. “That prevents patients’ access to data and research.” Meanwhile, even as clinical trials and numerous other sources continually supplement data volumes, women and minorities remain chronically underrepresented in many such studies. “We have to reboot and rebuild this whole system,” Patil said.
What the world of technology and data science needs is a code of ethics—a set of principles, akin to the Hippocratic Oath, that guides practitioners’ uses of data going forward, Patil suggested. “Data is a force multiplier that offers tremendous opportunity for change and transformation,” he explained, “but if we don’t do it right, the implications will be far worse than we can appreciate, in all sorts of ways.”
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