When artificial intelligence, ethics and human rights come together

01 December 2020 | AI, dJ Talks, IT-law

Artificial intelligence is gaining more and more influence. This brings a lot of benefits, but also has the potential to negatively influence our society, ethical norms and values and human rights. Does artificial intelligence take over people’s power to the detriment of human rights? Should there be new human rights?

Fear of artificial intelligence

As AI can operate more and more autonomously, we will increasingly have to relinquish control. This logically creates feelings of anxiety.

The development of AI opens the door to important human rights issues. For example, police forces can use “predictive” systems that incorporate large amounts of data on criminal activity and demographics to create maps of where and by whom crime is most often committed. Is this what we want?

Artificial intelligence techniques, which are inherently aimed at distinguishing between (groups of) individuals, threaten to result in forms of algorithmic discrimination that violate our equality rights.

Moreover, due to the opacity and complexity of algorithms, it is not often clear whether there is a violation of human rights. Amazon, for example, only discovered after a while that its recruitment algorithm systematically discriminated against women because it was trained on underlying data that came mainly from men.

Shouldn’t these applications be developed in a way that increases efficiency and transparency, but at the same time protects human rights? Companies can already do a number of things to protect human rights, such as establishing standards to ensure that Machine Learning works in a fair and non-discriminatory manner; establishing internal codes of conduct and introducing reward models for behaviour that contributes to the respect of human rights….

Even more important is the establishment of clear sectoral rules, such as imposing which data may be put into the system.

New proposals on human rights

Proposals for new human rights are emerging. For example, the right to online anonymity is to be recognized as an independent right or as a clarified right, which is linked to the existing privacy rights. People should have the right not to be patrolled or surreptitiously influenced, and to be able to escape the continuous analysis carried out as part of the Internet of Things. In this way, people can decide for themselves whether or not to participate in experiments or other activities, in which people’s lives are recorded or otherwise observed, and behaviours are influenced by technological means.

In this respect, the right to human contact is also interesting. The COVID-19 pandemic made it painfully clear that human contact is one of the fundamental aspects of human care, and some believe that replacing human intervention with robots could dehumanize care practices. Whether it concerns caring for the elderly or raising children, robots should not replace human relationships. Only improve them.

If you have any questions on this matter, you can always contact us via hallo@dejuristen.be.

Written by Paulien Vandenborre, Trainee deJuristen, and Kris Seyen, Partner deJuristen.

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