High-level dialogue: ensuring inclusion in the AI world

20 May 2021 14:00h - 15:00h

Event report

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a frontline technology with profound implications for human beings, cultures, societies, and the environment. However, AI technologies also possess significant risks and challenges, especially regarding the deepening of existing divides, exacerbating gender disparities, and infringing on human dignity and human rights. Currently, various initiatives ensure that these technologies help to overcome the current challenges and mitigate future risks. The EU is initiating an AI rulebook and UNESCO member states are negotiating Recommendation on the Ethics of AI.

The ‘High-Level Dialogue: Ensuring Inclusion in the AI world’ offered a discussion of the potential arrays for mitigating the risk posed by AI, making sure that the developments in these technologies do not create new forms of exclusion and inequality. This discussion included gender; understanding the ways in which these technologies should be used, designed, and implemented; and how their benefits should be reaped in a globally equitable fashion.

Because lack of diversity, inclusiveness, and accountability, and increasing gender inequality are major issues associated with the use of AI technologies, the design and implementation of AI solutions are largely in the hands of certain businesses, groups, and countries. Hence, we need stronger regulatory frameworks that reflect the diversity and richness of the world and that ensure the respect for privacy, human rights, and observance of ethical norms, said Ms Gabriela Ramos (Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences at UNESCO). Governments have a duty of care to ensure that AI causes no harm; that redress mechanisms are available; that accountability for harm caused is available; that more transparency is created; and that AI remains under human oversight. A realisation is growing that a stronger framework to protect people and to benefit from this technology is needed. The negotiations on devising common principles of ethics of AI has gained momentum, Ramos stated.

Overregulation is not an answer, and a breathing space should exist for technologies to develop; however, ethical considerations and a shared narrative should prevail in all matters related to AI. A potential problem for achieving meaningful regulation across the globe, according to Ramos, is the dilemma that countries encounter between protecting their global champions, on the one hand, and reaching consensus over common rules that put safety and protection of people at the centre, on the other hand. Therefore, the way forward is to ensure that technology is used to help humanity overcome its challenges and to ensure respect for human rights in the digital world.

The technology and the algorithms behind the technology are not themselves biased, yet the rise of powerful AI without correctly designed objectives for their use might result in loss of control over the technology and pose risks to various groups. Currently, according to Mr Stuart Russell (Professor of Computer Science, University of California, Berkeley) social media algorithms have more control over what people see, watch, and hear than any dictator in history, and humanity loses mental security in a largely unsecure environment.

AI is too relevant for people and too big to be owned by governments or by companies; therefore, a multistakeholder and multi-level approach, embodying equal and open dialogue, education and an enhanced role of informed consumers and organised civil societies, are needed to consider the risks posed by AI and its potential to deepen biases and discrimination, said Ms Mónica Aspe Bernal (CEO, AT&T Mexico).

In an environment where young generations are vulnerable to loss of jobs due to AI, and living in an environment where privacy is compromised, rules need to be developed to ensure trust; countries should discuss such rules in an open platform through dialogue, added Mr Rashid Ismailov (President, ‘VimpelCom’ PJSC, Russia).

With its first-ever legal framework on AI, the EU will subject AI systems to a new set of strict obligations regarding the appropriate level of human oversight embedded in both the design and the implementation of AI, prohibiting the use of AI systems that put people’s lives in danger and go against the EU fundamental values, said Ms Margrethe Vestager (Executive Vice-President, A Europe Fit for the Digital Age of the European Commission). The EU is open to cooperate with any other country and region that shares its common values and priorities for this technology, stated Vestager.