Navigating Ethical Crossroads: The Dangers of Reactionary AI Leadership Without a Moral Compass – by Nicole Gibson

Nicole Gibson image for tech inside out

An engineering mind is trained to think analytically; carefully picking apart risk and solving problems with effective reasoning skills. Often these brilliant thinkers are the minds that go on to build the next Silicon Valley unicorns. First principle thinking is crucial when building and designing sophisticated software and reforming systems. 

As these thinkers have remained such an asset to our progression as a society, it’s possible that the more we delve into the development of super intelligence, the greater the risk becomes in excluding more emotional and philosophical thinkers in the tech equation. As we transition from programming being glorified slaves for us humans, into the development of intelligence that demonstrates its own freewill and sentience; the more important the question becomes, who are the minds teaching this intelligence? 

An Unconventional Journey

My unconventional journey in establishing a tech startup draws from a humanitarian and arts background, empowering me to address problems in novel and nuanced ways that resonate with often overlooked ethical considerations within the tech industry.

The fundamental question steering my endeavors has been simple and focused, as it guides my team in all decisions we make: “what story is our technology writing for the world?” This query transcends technicalities, looking into the broader repercussions of technology on society, especially considering the monumental impact the direction of artificial intelligence will have on our world. Will technology contribute to a more compassionate and empowered society, or will it lead to our possible irrelevance? 

New Ways of Understanding

I encourage non-technical founders to open up to new ways of understanding technology; as the bedrock of modern day systems and stretch themselves to enquire whether or not it is possible to take whatever their expertise is and bring it into the tech space. Understandably, technology is far from a traditional path, yet for the founders that are purpose and impact driven, it’s an incredible thing to note the ways in which technology can impact our world. 

I hosted a conference recently, and found myself moderating a panel on the future of Artificial Intelligence in healthcare. One of the panelists closed with very notable wisdom; “If we are not careful, we are creating a future where humans are becoming more artificial and artificial intelligence is becoming more human.” 

It’s Elon Musk that has quoted several times that, “…the most ironic outcome is the most likely”. I think we must look at this with proper consideration and spend time in the contemplation of our acceleration as humanity. The nature of these questions become illuminated as more existential than technical. 

Beginning with the basics: what is intelligence? Viewing intelligence in a more holistic sense, I would argue that intelligence is the capacity to handle a broad perspective, understanding the interconnectedness between things. With this comes a sense of agency, control and direction. More intelligence is a profound thing; it’s what will allow us to solve radically divergent problems and, if directed with compassion, lay the path to a world with far less suffering.  

Global Emotional Maturity

In reflecting on my career, and where I began as an entrepreneur, I was always committed to solving the same problem; emotional incapacity. It was clear to me that until we supported emotional growth and greater emotional intelligence in our world, the capacity to face, address and discuss bigger global problems was always going to remain compromised. My premise was that we must reach a level of emotional maturity as a world, in order to then meaningfully collaborate. 

A premise I still standby, and have continued to find more sophisticated, scalable ways of addressing this problem. Hence the transition into technology.  Moving from direct engagement to technological solutions demanded a shift from a nonlinear problem-solving approach to a design-oriented one. Understanding that my work centered on enhancing emotional capacity and awareness prompted the question: How could technology support these aspects? This shift in focus, from the current solution to a profound understanding of the problem’s core, is the essence of innovation.

Tight Runways 

The startup journey, akin to dancing on the edge of survival, demands an intense focus on scaling and endurance. During the initial stages of your startup journey, you’re navigating a tight runway, perhaps only extending two or three months, and your company faces the constant threat of bankruptcy until you hit the hockey stick of scale. 

This is a huge amount for our nervous systems to endure, and often this leads to a calcification; decreasing levels of empathy and altruism in leadership and turning instead towards fear, survival and control. So, when there’s an entrepreneur and a founder stepping into a venture, we must support their emotional and spiritual evolution as much as their material success. The nature of our decision making is always an extension of where we come from internally.

For those who truly make it in Silicon Valley; they transition from being on the brink of demise to the realization that often overnight, you’re welcomed into the top one percent of power globally. Too regularly, nothing has prepared these leaders for the inheritance of that power. We have watched the same phenomena in Hollywood. The issue is that power does corrupt; until we know what it means to find true empowerment.

Potential Dangers of Power

It is critical to acknowledge the potential dangers that come with power, especially within the realm of AI decision-making. Reactive decision-making without moral accountability poses a significant threat. The pressure to survive and scale rapidly often leads to decisions divorced from ethical considerations. 

Therefore, prioritizing ethical leadership and incorporating moral accountability in the decision-making process is crucial. By doing so, we can ensure that the tech industry, particularly in the realm of AI, navigates these uncharted waters with a clear moral compass to avert catastrophic consequences.

Moreover, my argument is that until you’re there, you’re not the right person to be leading this massively powerful pursuit because, at some point, you will be corrupted like a human being. If their identity is tied to something in one way or another, you can manipulate that person. We need to be highly aware of where the next generation of money goes. As a world we must value spiritual maturity as much as we do technological advancement.

That’s the caveat. 

Layers of Criteria

So, if you’re a high net worth individual, if you’re working for a family office, if you’re a founder that’s excited and you want to invest in the next generation of entrepreneurs, if you’re a VC, add layers to your criteria. Where money moves in the next five years lays the most defining pathways for our future. Let your money speak, in the right ways. 

I’ve had many conversations with VC’s that believe a business should be analyzed completely independently of their founder; from my perspective, this is disastrous. Depending on the level of consciousness of the leader spearheading the next unicorns, the same ideas can manifest as completely polar outcomes for our world. 

An Holistic Approach to Investing

We must be looking to back founders that have degrees of inner peace; the ability to emotionally regulate, relative equanimity, and to really be at a place of evolution where they no longer see life in a dualistic way. There’s a sense of ‘all for one and one for all’ that is unwavering because it’s integrated into who they are as a being.

This approach would add a layer of protection against the potential corrupting influence of power and ensure that future leaders navigate their responsibilities with emotional intelligence and a profound sense of interconnectedness.




Nicole Gibson is CEO Love Out Loud & in Truth Technologies and author of Legacy Disorder.

Cover of Legacy Disorder: a global diagnosis of power by Nicole Gibson

She is a distinguished social entrepreneur and visionary, leading the global ‘Love Out Loud’ movement. She’s also the creator of the upcoming inTruth Technologies app designed to help individuals regulate their emotions. With ventures in Silicon Valley, where she pioneers biotechnologies, and a significant impact on Australia’s health and education sectors as the former youngest Commonwealth Commissioner for Health, Nicole is recognized as one of Australia’s top 100 most influential women.