Responsible AI Utilization and R&D

Alice Xiang,Global Head of AI Ethics,Sony Group Corporation

Alice Xiang Global Head of AI Ethics
Sony Group Corporation

AI is revolutionizing society, transforming how we interact with and understand the world. Through leveraging AI, Sony aims to contribute to the development of a peaceful and sustainable society while delivering Kando or emotion — to the world. As we expand our AI development and usage, however, we must ensure that it conforms with our Sony Group AI Ethics Guidelines, which include respecting diversity and human rights, preventing discrimination, and pursuing transparency and trustworthiness.

Our goals for AI ethics at Sony are four-fold. First, our AI ethics work should help maintain and expand Sony’s global competitiveness. To enable and accelerate AI as a sustainable competitive advantage for Sony, we must invest in our capacity to use AI in an ethical way. This is non-trivial given that AI is an emergent technology, often with unanticipated effects. As a result, our second goal is to evaluate and mitigate potential legal, reputational, and ethical risks associated with AI use. We should be proactive rather than reactive in addressing AI ethics concerns. Third, since Sony is a leading global technology company, we must ensure that our products and services work well for all customers, regardless of their nationality, gender, or other attributes. Finally, our goal is not simply to have Sony stay up to date with AI ethics practices across industry but rather to be a leader in ethical AI.

To this end, in 2018, Sony was one of the first companies to establish AI ethics guidelines. In December 2019, Sony established the Sony Group AI Ethics Committee, comprising senior executive leaders who deliberate on high-stakes AI use cases and make decisions regarding the modification or discontinuation of such uses. In 2020, Sony publicly announced that all AI products would be evaluated for ethical concerns, and in 2021, the AI Ethics Office was established to provide subject matter expertise on AI ethics to all Sony business units. In July 2021, after months of pilot assessments, Sony launched its AI ethics assessment process as part of the mandatory quality management system for Electronics products.

A key component of this assessment process is “ethics by design.” Instead of being a final step considered at the end, ethical issues are evaluated at every stage of the AI development lifecycle, beginning in the planning stage – before a single line of code is written – and extending to the design, production, and deployment stages.

Since launching this system, the AI Ethics Office has evaluated over 100 cases. These have included smart camera solutions using our image sensor technologies, video production solutions, and other electronics products. High-risk use cases, including those that might affect people’s health or livelihoods, have been reported to the AI Ethics Committee, which has halted the development of certain AI technologies.

Another important component of our AI ethics strategy at Sony is the integration of research and practice. To this end, in 2021, Sony also launched the AI Ethics Research Flagship at the heart of Sony AI to conduct cutting-edge research on challenges faced in the development of AI products and services, including ethical data collection and algorithmic bias detection and mitigation.

In addition, Sony actively pursues dialogues with relevant companies, organizations, and the academic community on AI ethics issues. Sony is a member of several multi-stakeholder organizations, including the Partnership on AI and the Global Partnership on AI and contributes expertise to numerous AI policy initiatives globally.

We believe Sony is well-positioned to become a leader in ethical AI. In a field that is dominated by U.S.-based tech companies and European regulatory standards, Sony can offer a distinctively diverse and global perspective with its businesses ranging from entertainment to technology to financial services.

Our mission at the intersection of entertainment and technology is deeply aligned with AI ethics. We aim to enhance and expand human creativity and curiosity rather than to replace it. Sony has consistently been named one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies by the Ethisphere Institute. Through our work in the AI Ethics Office and Sony AI, we aim to reflect these values in our business practices and lead the way to more ethical AI.

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