A new global standard for AI ethics

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- AI governance

Context

Artificial intelligence (AI) is more present in our lives than ever. From predicting what we want to see as we scroll through social media to helping us understand weather patterns to manage agriculture, AI is ubiquitous.

Issues with AI  and it why it matters to India

  • Bias and discrimination: The data used to feed into AI often aren’t representative of the diversity of our societies, producing outcomes that can be said to be biased or discriminatory.
  • Errors in facial recognition: There are problems emerging in facial recognition technologies, which are used to access our phones, bank accounts and apartments, and are increasingly employed by law-enforcement authorities, in identifying women and darker-skinned people.
  • For three such programs released by major technology companies, the error rate was 1% for light-skinned men, but 19% for dark-skinned men, and up to 35% for dark-skinned women.
  • Biases in facial recognition technologies have led to wrongful arrests.
  •  Indeed, if the business model of how these technologies are developed does not change to place human interests first, inequalities will grow to a magnitude never before experienced in history; access to the raw material that is data is key.
  • These issues are of particular importance to India, which is one of the world’s largest markets for AI-related technologies, valued at over $7.8 billion in 2021.
  •  The National Strategy on Artificial Intelligence released by NITI Aayog in 2018 highlights the massive potential of AI in solving complex social challenges faced by Indian citizens across areas such as agriculture, health, and education, in addition to the significant economic returns that AI-related technologies are already creating.

UNESCO agreement

  • To ensure that the full potential of these technologies is reached, the right incentives for ethical AI governance need to be established in national and sub-national policy.
  • India has made great strides in the development of responsible and ethical AI governance, starting with NITI Aayog’s #AIForAll campaign to the many corporate strategies that have been adopted to ensure that AI is developed with common, humanistic values at its core.
  • UNESCO’s recommendations: Last November 193 countries reached a groundbreaking agreement at UNESCO on how AI should be designed and used by governments and tech companies.
  • UNESCO’s Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence took two years to put together and involved thousands of online consultations with people from a diverse range of social groups.
  •  It aims to fundamentally shift the balance of power between people, and the businesses and governments developing AI.
  • Countries which are members of UNESCO have agreed to implement this recommendation by enacting actions to regulate the entire AI system life cycle, ranging from research, design and development to deployment and use.
  • This means they must use affirmative action to make sure that women and minority groups are fairly represented on AI design teams.
  • The Recommendation also underscores the importance of the proper management of data, privacy and access to information.
  •  It establishes the need to keep control over data in the hands of users, allowing them to access and delete information as needed.
  • It also calls on member states to ensure that appropriate safeguards schemes are devised for the processing of sensitive data and effective accountability, and redress mechanisms are provided in the event of harm.
  • Socio-cultural impact: The broader socio-cultural impacts of AI-related technologies are also addressed, with the Recommendation taking a strong stance that-
  • 1] AI systems should not be used for social scoring or mass surveillance purposes;
  • 2] That particular attention must be paid to the psychological and cognitive impact that these systems can have on children and young people;
  • 3] Member states should invest in and promote not only digital, media and information literacy skills, but also socio-emotional and AI ethics skills to strengthen critical thinking and competencies in the digital era.
  • In a number of countries, the principles of the Recommendation are already being used in AI regulation and policy.
  • Finland provides an example of good practice of this regard, with its 2017 AI Strategy.

Conclusion

The new agreement is broad and ambitious. It is a recognition that AI-related technologies cannot continue to operate without a common rulebook. Over the coming months and years, the Recommendation will serve as a compass to guide governments and companies, to voluntarily develop and deploy AI technologies that conform with the commonly agreed principles it establishes.

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