Human dignity

Human dignity relates to the recognition of the intrinsic and equal worth of each individual human being. Fundamental to this dignity is human agency and the realisation of the individual, creative, and professional potential of each person. The protection of human dignity underpins many human rights, from privacy to freedom of expression and a wide range of socio-economic human rights.

Human dignity, like other values, can be strengthened or endangered by digital developments. On the positive side, we can point to the empowering potential of digital developments, especially for marginalised groups and communities whose identities and voices were not heard in the pre-digital world. On the negative side, human dignity is often one of the first targets in hate speech and communication. As numerous studies show, digital communication tends to polarise and focus debates on who said something instead of what was actually said. Intrusion on human privacy and intimacy is also more commonplace in our increasingly connected world and represents an infringement of human dignity.

In the field of AI governance, human dignity features even more prominently. For example, UNESCO’s Recommendation on the ethics of artificial intelligence (UNESCO, 2021) indicates that ‘The inviolable and inherent dignity of every human constitutes the foundation for the universal, indivisible, inalienable, interdependent and interrelated system of human rights and fundamental freedoms.’