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Primer – Artificial Intelligence, Human Rights, Democracy, and the Rule of Law

The Alan Turing Institute and the Council of Europe: Primer – Artificial Intelligence, Human Rights, Democracy, and the Rule of Law: “…It is a remarkable fact that rapid advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and data-driven technologies over the last two decades have placed contemporary society at a pivot-point in deciding what shape the future of humanity will take. On the one hand, the flourishing of societally beneficial AI innovation promises, among other things, to help us tackle climate change and biodiversity loss; to equitably improve medical care, living standards, transportation, and agricultural production; and to address many of the social injustices and material inequalities that beset today’s world. On the other hand, the proliferation of irresponsible AI innovations is revealing warning signs of the potential troubles that may lie ahead if the advancement of these technologies continues on its current worrying trajectory. We see these warning signs, for instance, in the growing risks to cherished rights to privacy, self- expression, association, and consent, as well as to other civil liberties and social freedoms, that digital surveillance infrastructures like live facial recognition now increasingly pose. We see them in the transformative effects already apparent in the broad-scale proliferation of individual-targeting algorithmic curation and data-driven behavioural manipulation which have bolstered the revenues of Big Tech platforms all while fostering global crises of social distrust, contagions of disinformation, and heightening levels of cultural and political polarisation. We see them too in the way that the application of predictive risk models and algorithmically-enhanced digital tracking capacities in high impact areas like law enforcement has functioned to reinforce and further entrench patterns of structural discrimination, systemic marginalisation, and inequality. Recognising the need for democratically-led human intervention in setting AI innovation on the right track, the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers adopted the terms of reference, in September 2019, for the Ad Hoc Committee on Artificial Intelligence (CAHAI). The CAHAI is charged with examining the feasibility and potential elements of a legal framework for the design, development, and deployment of AI systems that accord with Council of Europe standards across the interrelated areas of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. As a first and necessary step in carrying out this responsibility, the CAHAI’s Feasibility Study, adopted by its plenary in December 2020, has explored options for an international legal response that fills existing gaps in legislation and tailors the use of binding and non-binding legal instruments to the specific risks and opportunities presented by AI systems. The Study examines how the fundamental rights and freedoms that are already codified in international human rights law can be used as the basis for such a legal framework. It proposes nine principles and priorities that are fitted to the novel challenges posed by the design, development, and deployment of AI systems. When codified into law, these principles and priorities create a set of interlocking rights and obligations that will work towards ensuring that the design and use of AI technologies conform to the values of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. The Feasibility Study concludes that current rules and legal regimes are neither adequate for safeguarding these basic values as they pertain to AI, nor suitable, in and of themselves, for creating an AI innovation environment that can be deemed sufficiently trustworthy for steering AI and data-
intensive technologies in the right direction. A new legal framework is needed. The purpose of this primer is to introduce the main concepts and principles presented in the CAHAI’s Feasibility Study for a general, non-technical audience. It also aims to provide some background information on the areas of AI innovation, human rights law, technology policy, and compliance mechanisms covered therein. In keeping with the Council of Europe’s commitment to broad multistakeholder consultations, outreach, and engagement, this primer has been designed to help facilitate the meaningful and informed participation of an inclusive group of stakeholders as the CAHAI seeks feedback and guidance regarding the essential issues raised by The Feasibility Study.”

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