United Nations launches global standard for AI ethics

United Nations launches global standard for AI ethics

Standard aims to provide AI with a strong ethical basis that will not only protect but also promote human rights and human dignity.

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The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) presented a global standard on the ethics of artificial intelligence (AI) to be adopted by the almost 200 member states.

The standard defines common values and principles that will guide the construction of the necessary legal infrastructure to ensure the healthy development of AI. 

In a statement, UNESCO said that there are several benefits from the use of AI but also challenges including gender and ethnic bias; significant threats to privacy, dignity, and agency; dangers of mass surveillance; and increased use of unreliable AI technologies in law enforcement.

The standard recommends:

Protecting data through action beyond what tech firms and governments are doing to guarantee individuals more protection by ensuring transparency, agency, and control over their personal data. 

It states that individuals should all be able to access or even erase records of their personal data. It also includes actions to improve data protection and an individual's knowledge of, and right to control, their own data. It also increases the ability of regulatory bodies around the world to enforce this.

Banning social scoring and mass surveillance. The standard explicitly bans the use of AI systems for social scoring and mass surveillance. UNESCO sees these types of technologies as very invasive, that they infringe on human rights and fundamental freedoms, and that they are used in a broad way. 

The recommendation stresses that when developing regulatory frameworks, member states should consider that ultimate responsibility and accountability must always lie with humans and that AI technologies should not be given legal personality themselves.

Helping to monitor and evaluate. The ethical impact assessment is intended to help countries and companies developing and deploying AI systems to assess the impact of those systems on individuals, on society, and on the environment. 

The readiness assessment methodology helps member states to assess how ready they are in terms of legal and technical infrastructure. This tool will assist in enhancing the institutional capacity of countries and recommend appropriate measures to be taken in order to ensure that ethics are implemented in practice. 

Member states are also encouraged to consider adding the role of an independent AI ethics officer or some other mechanism to oversee auditing and continuous monitoring efforts.

Protecting the environment. The standard recommends that governments assess the direct and indirect environmental impact throughout the AI system life cycle. This includes its carbon footprint, its energy consumption, and the environmental impact of raw material extraction for supporting the manufacturing of AI technologies. It also aims at reducing the environmental impact of AI systems and data infrastructures.

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