Ethical AI framework will help policymakers

05 July 2021 | Muriel Cozier

‘AI has the potential to radically reduce inequalities, promote diversity, and benefit humanity as a whole.’

Members of the United Nations Educational, Science and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) have agreed a draft text for what is said to be an ‘ambitious and wide-ranging new template for the ethical development and deployment of Artificial Intelligence.’ The text will be submitted to UNESCO Member States at the organisation’s General Conference in November 2021.

UNESCO says that while AI technologies have extraordinary value and the potential for social and economic development, AI presents complex and unique challenges for policymakers. Concerns around AI include: bias, stereotyping and discrimination. UNESCO adds that increasingly decisions in both the public and private spheres are being taken on the basis of analysis generated by AI. UNESCO is calling for AI to be developed in a way that ensures fair outcomes.

The draft text was compiled by 24 experts from around the world. The draft recommendation establishes a global framework to ensure that digital transformations promote human rights and contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. It will also address issues around transparency, accountability and privacy, and also contain action-oriented policy chapters on data governance, education, culture, healthcare and the economy. UNESCO says that the document will provide governments and policy makers with global framework for regulating AI.

Audrey Azoulay, Director General of UNESCO said: ‘Once adopted, leaders everywhere will have a shared reference point on how to control risks and harness these new technologies as a force for good. AI has the potential to radically reduce inequalities, promote diversity, and benefit humanity as a whole.’

Meanwhile, UNESCO’s World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST) along with the International Bioethics Committee (IBC) are calling on policy makers to address ethical issues linked to covid-19 certificates and vaccine passports.  The organisations say that it is crucial that the documents are not used as a privilege, but should rather be used to ‘create an epidemiologically safer environment for everyone.’

Professor Peter-Paul Verbeek, Chairperson of COMEST said: ‘It is crucial that covid-19 certificates leave no one behind, and do not create privilege for those who have access to vaccines, tests and digital technologies. Moreover, they should deal responsibly with the scientific uncertainties regarding the protection that specific vaccines and past infections provide, and the reliability of negative covid-19 test results.’

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