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AI-ware: Bridging AI and Software Engineering for responsible and sustainable intelligent artefacts



The Computer Science fields Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Software Engineering need to strengthen at their interception. This paper contributes to it by defining what is meant by AI concretely (spoiler: it is not only machine learning), by presenting related work that builds upon bridging the above-mentioned fields, and by suggesting the AI-ware approach for paving the path to the intelligent artefacts of the future.
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AI-ware: Bridging AI and Software
Engineering for responsible and
sustainable intelligent artefacts
Dagmar Monett1, Claudia Lemke2
1 Berlin School of Economics and Law, Computer Science Department, Alt-Friedrichsfelde
60, Berlin, 10315,
2 Berlin School of Economics and Law, Information Systems Department, Alt-Friedrichsfelde
60, Berlin, 10315,
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Abstract: The Computer Science elds Articial Intelligence (AI) and Software Engineering
need to strengthen at their interception. This paper contributes to it by dening what is
meant by AI concretely (spoiler: it is not only machine learning), by presenting related work
that builds upon bridging the above mentioned elds, and by suggesting the AI-ware
approach for paving the path to the intelligent artefacts of the future.
Keywords: Articial Intelligence, Software Engineering, AI-ware, AI ethics,
machinelearnization fallacy
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1 The AI background
1.1 What is AI?
Historically, there has been a typical and profound misunderstanding of what machine or articial
intelligence (AI) is or what it can do. This has been chasing the advancements in the AI eld thereby
lacerating its credibility since its foundation [Mc76; Mi19; Wo20]. Promises of intelligent capabilities
in machines have been pervasive in the AI eld for decades, especially during the “AI Springs” or
periods of time where (perceived) signicant results are achieved. Enthusiasm grows, consequently,
as do expectations. New developments and the eld itself are “ballooned to an importance beyond
[their] actual accomplishments” [Sh56] and it does not take long until disappointment arises, funding
is cut, and interest in the eld decreases. AI remains far from a magic bullet that can solve all our
Many are the reasons for those AI highs and lows. Perhaps one of the most signicant ones is not
having consensus on defining AI, both as a eld and as its most important concept [MLT20; Wa19].
Understandable, there will always be subelds that flourish more or less depending on their success;
other new ones originate and others merge. But AI silos and corresponding ivory towers are
characteristic of the inability to reach consensus on AI’s most fundamental concepts and
techniques. Few has changed since 1956, when the eld is said to be founded.
Most recently, the “machinelearnization fallacy, as we dene and refer to it in our approach, has
dominated public and practitioners’ perception of AI. We argue that this fallacy is the urge to reduce
reality to models and treat all problems by applying machine learning (ML), i.e. data-driven statistical-
based algorithms (like articial –deep– neural networks and related techniques), even when they are
not the most suitable ones. The machinelearnization fallacy appears when it is thought that ML
algorithms are the only ones that can solve any problem in any domain or lead to truly intelligent
systems because they have already had success optimizing certain problems in very narrow
domains. The implications of misclassifying cats or objects in an image, for instance, should never
be equalled to those impacting society and its structures. Moreover, the implications of referring to
AI when it is actually meant only one of its subelds can be harmful [Cr21], also to the AI community
and its progress [La21].
The incremental advances that have been made in AI are mainly in low-level pattern recognition
skills, however [Jo19]. They are nowhere near advanced enough to be considered intelligent [MD19;
Mi19; Sm19; Wo20]. In fact, the lately over-celebrated advances in the AI eld are recording an
unparalleled eclipsing of other AI subelds, simultaneously obscuring the harms and risks that their
outcomes can pose. The hype is nothing but a product of loud promoted and corporate-backed
achievements in a few AI areas. Consequently, the public and other stakeholders have been provided
a narrow, partial view of AI. Yet, ML is one among many AI subfields, the one that is currently getting
the most attention and investments, though.
1.2 Why now?
AI, the new star in the emerging technology sky, owes its popularity to various technological
developments from recent decades. On the one hand, AI’s technological progress has been possible
due to an exponential growth in the performance of hardware components, the ongoing increase of
the internet of things, as well as the high computing and storage capacities through cloud
computing and improved algorithms. Furthermore, open source technology has facilitated the rapid
spread of algorithms’ code and experiments, allowing for new implementations and applications. On
These other periods are known as “AI Winters.”
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the other hand, the Big Tech’s drive for collecting and analysing consumer data fosters a fairy-tale
imagination of all established companies across industries to be able to emulate them. Techniques
or approaches like big data offer new ways for business analytics and especially for using primary or
very specic ML approaches to predict a certain future of these companies. It seems so easy on the
surface, that the training and test purposes of AI algorithms using the apparently available own
business data are aimed at guaranteeing complete and timely information business decisions. At the
same time, AI- driven algorithms promote a further automation of operational processes and
structures, which, in the end, secure the efciency and effectiveness of the company in the medium
to long term. Therefore, it is not surprising that AI projects are on the strategic agendas of company
leaders, actually for years now, with high annual investments. Other factors like open access
publications and peer reviewed literature on AI, available on preprint servers even before they are
nally published, also offer an easy entry to the academic or scientic AI community, combined with
open, online education about AI.
Together, these factors have transformed the power relations between consumers, producers, and
prosumers of digital technologies, either based on AI or not. For example, it is now straightforward to
learn about and produce AI applications with a minimum of effort and resources. Consumers of
these technologies become also data sources, testers, or even producers of new applications
themselves. Nevertheless, and despite the factors that fuel the current AI momentum, it is often
alleged that the design and implementation of AI algorithms or AI-based systems must be subject to
other “laws” distinct from the ones guiding the development of traditional IT in the eld of Software
Engineering. Which are these differences exactly? Are there any similarities? Could these two core
areas of the Computer Science eld learn from each other?
1.3 AI is software!
Actually, it all comes down to software, yet it is treated as if it were magic in the case of AI. A blurry
line, which got thicker with time, was articially produced between AI and Software Engineering, in
particular, and Computer Science, in general. It does not come as a surprise that whilst Software
Engineering evolved to the very established discipline that it is today, the AI eld was stuck in
algorithmic development, mainly improvised in academic settings with few practical applications at
large scale. The traditional software structure that encompasses not only all software development
phases but also its management and quality assurance [So16] is indeed different for some AI-
enabled systems, but not all of them. They require more algorithmic tuning, uncertainty, ambiguity, a
different handling of data (for those where it is a critical resource), and a higher margin of error and
instability along the systems [HMO19; Oz20].
2 The AI-ware agenda
2.1 What does AI-ware mean and what is it not?
We dene AI-ware as a term with a twofold meaning. On the one hand, we mean the need to be
aware of what AI is and is not, its subelds, as well as a critical appraisal of where does applying AI
make sense at all. Section 1 claries these aspects. On the other hand, we mean the conjunction of
AI and Software Engineering, mainly –but not only– the former learning from the variety of well-
established techniques and good practices from the latter, at the same time extending them.
Additionally, AI-ware combines research movements and/or subfields from the Software Engineering
and AI elds, like AI4SE and SE4AI [Mc20], but focused on an equal consideration more than a causal
argumentation. AI-ware is neither a new subeld of Software Engineering nor a new form of
experimenting with AI. Rather, it should take into account the specic features in the application of
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the various AI methods and models, enable a targeted and economically arguable development of
AI-based applications, and be understood as an emerging, modern eld of Computer Science.
Software Engineering principles do apply to engineering AI-based systems [HMO19]. Together with
good practices and better methodologies that are coming from some AI subelds [MBL20], they are
paving the way to bridge both fields. Additionally, a shift from “model-centric AI” to “data-centric AI” is
happening in some industries, along with the extension of DevOps to MLOps for the specific case of
the ML pipeline. This resembles only part of the AI subeld, however, since not all problems need to
be solved by applying ML (refer to the machinelearnization fallacy discussed above).
An AI-ware approach should bring the pieces of a complex puzzle together and open directions for
further research, thereby
acknowledging what AI is and which subelds, methods, and algorithms are part of it or come
into question when a particular problem is to be solved;
including the ethical stance in all of its phases, particularly when developing data- centric AI;
applying Software Engineering principles, methodologies, and good practices, e.g. those
particularly helpful for AI-based software development;
making decisions regarding platforms, technologies, and architectures suitable for AI, as well
as for managing resources including data, people, and processes.
2.2 What a possible research agenda could look like
Future AI applications for business environments need the design and development of responsible
and sustainable intelligent artefacts [Di19]. There is often a gap between the idea that programmers
have when solving a problem and the creative use of its solutions by users. Humans make techno-
moral choices, which can have positive but also negative reinforcing effects. It is therefore essential
that an AI-ware approach, primarily and above all, can close these gaps. One of the main niches for
research action would be to consider how to integrate AI ethical challenges into classical Software
Engineering frameworks. Thus, suggested research perspectives for an AI-ware agenda are:
Societal and ethical perspective regarding the purpose of AI-driven applications, their
impact on society and nature, and their contribution to a sustainable future. Further,
regarding which problems urge to be solved and which AI applications need regulation
because of their high risk to erode human rights, for instance.
Algorithmic perspective regarding a realistic consideration of what kind of AI is needed, if
at all, and for solving which problems. The machinelearnization fallacy, among other
fallacies intrinsically related to the nature and function of AI algorithms, should be kept under
criticism as long as other approaches (e.g. from symbolic AI, hybrid techniques, etc.) have
not been evaluated. The solution to a problem does not necessarily require AI, let alone ML
Data-oriented perspective regarding the value of data, like property rights of data, its
variety, and quality. It is no longer just the interesting user data but the big object-based data
that allows for completely new power structures in the sense of measuring our complete
world and surroundings once having access to this data.
Framework-based perspective regarding both hardware and software architectural issues,
potentially different when designing AI or classical IT software (compare DevOps to MLOps).
Areas that have so far been considered in an undifferentiated way should probably be
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separated, too. For example, the application of statistical methods in business analytics is
also possible by using ML algorithms, but they still belong to the domain of data mining or
data science and, thus, require other competences than the classical Software Engineering
Economics perspective regarding the efforts and resources when designing AI- based
applications, the entire software process, and the corresponding operational tasks.
Examples show time and again that AI algorithms work well in lab- controlled environments,
but fail in practical applications in a larger context. Here, suitable measuring instruments
must be sought or adapted.
Interdisciplinary perspective regarding the teams that design, develop, deploy, and even
use AI applications, thereby combining different subject areas, expertise, and experiences
3 Conclusion
This paper suggests a solution to the currently differentiated development of algorithms under the
label of AI in a business environment by suggesting ideas on how to reframe the insights from
Software Engineering with the challenges of designing responsible and sustainable artefacts. Some
of the perspectives that we put forward, which are certainly not exhaustive, support an
interdisciplinary discussion aimed to combine insights from both AI and Software Engineering with a
management-oriented view.
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[Cr21] Crawford, K.: Atlas of AI: Power, Politics, and the Planetary Costs of Artificial
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[La21] Larson, E. J.: The Myth of Artificial Intelligence: Why Computers Can’t Think the
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AI Engineering: 11 Foundational Practices
  • A Horneman
  • A Mellinger
  • I Ozkaya
Horneman, A.; Mellinger, A.; Ozkaya, I.: AI Engineering: 11 Foundational Practices. Carnegie Mellon University Software Engineering Institute, Pittsburgh, 2019. 2019_019_001_634648.pdf