Tech & Rights

​Artificial Intelligence: Ethics Can be Costly

Experts discussed the impact of artificial intelligence on human rights at a conference in Tallin. Here’s what Liberties’ digital expert argued.

by LibertiesEU

On the 26th of January 2023, Liberties’ senior advocacy officer, Dr. Orsolya Reich, participated in a hybrid conference on AI and human rights, organized by Liberties’ member organisation the Estonian Human Rights Centre.

During the conference, experts exchanged ideas on the foreseeable, as well as potential, social changes that could be caused by developing technology. The discussion touched on the potential thresholds and limits of developing AI, on the use of AI in war and policing, the impact AI has on human rights, and on the desirability of regulatory reform.

Liberties’ advocacy officer Dr. Reich sat on a panel focusing on human values, AI, and regulatory attempts made by governments. While the other panelists were generally skeptical if not outright against the European Union’s regulatory attempts on the technology, Dr. Reich argued that while the AI Act, as put forward by the European Union, insufficiently protects our fundamental rights, the fact that the EU wants to regulate how artificial intelligence can be used in our societies is to be appreciated. Dr. Reich argued that the industry’s perspective, which holds that regulation stifles innovation and self-developed ethical guidelines are sufficient to protect our societies, is completely mistaken. Not all innovation is good for our societies. Recent scandals have shown that we cannot trust industry players and “users”, that is, firms and authorities putting AI systems to use, to employ the technology in such a way that it will not cause us grave harm.

Liberties understands that being ethical is costly. But this is a fair cost that industry players must carry in exchange for being allowed to sell their products on our markets. When there is no regulation, players who hold themselves to strict ethical standards are disadvantaged in comparison to their competitors. On a market characterized by fierce competition, such a disadvantage may drive ethical players out of the market. A strictly enforced regulation is needed to solve this problem.

Nevertheless, Liberties also believes that neither the European Commission’s, nor the European Council’s version of the AI Act regulating the development and deployment of AI systems go far enough. We strongly encourage the European Parliament to develop a version that sufficiently protects us from surveillance, discrimination, and silencing and empowers citizens to effectively stand up for their rights. We call on the EU Parliament to strongly defend the fundamental rights and interests of all people living in the EU in the upcoming trilogue negotiations, and not to trade in our rights based on fundamentally false innovation arguments.

Liberties is part of an NGO-coalition and movement, named Reclaim Your Face, fighting for a ban (to be included in the AI Act) on biometric mass surveillance. You can find more information on the movement here.

You can see the video recording of the Tallin conference here and read the report of our partner organisation on it (in Estonian) here.

You can find Liberties’ AI related articles here.

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