Artificial Intelligence: UNESCO Member States Adopt The First Ever Global Agreement On The Ethics Of Artificial Intelligence

November 29, 2021 | Artificial Intelligence, News
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The ethical framework agreed by the 193 UNESCO member states came after three years of hard work and intense international negotiations.

The first ever global standard on the ethics of artificial intelligence (AI) was adopted by the member states of UNESCO at its General Conference on Tuesday. Audrey Azoulay, director-general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), presented the historic agreement on Thursday, nearly twenty months after she constituted an international group of 24 leading AI experts to draft recommendations on the ethical issues of AI. (Helsinki Times)

Azoulay launched the ambitious project to give the world an ethical framework for the use of artificial intelligence in 2018.

“The world needs rules for artificial intelligence to benefit humanity. The Recommendation on the ethics of AI is a major answer. It sets the first global normative framework while giving States the responsibility to apply it at their level. UNESCO will support its 193 Member States in its implementation and ask them to report regularly on their progress and practices,” she said in a statement.

Benefits and challenges

AI is delivering remarkable benefits in many sectors and activities around the world including aviation, media, automated transportation and robotics, cancer screening, disbursal of economic aid, to combat climate change and in agriculture to combat world hunger.

However, on the flip side, AI has been criticised for intrusion of privacy and civil liberties through mass surveillance, gender bias, and in law enforcement without adquate checks and balances.

In the absence of any universally accepted standard to resolve the conflicting impacts from AI, the UNESCO recommendation now defines the common values and principles which will guide the construction of the necessary legal infrastructure to ensure the healthy development of AI.

“Decisions impacting millions of people should be fair, transparent and contestable. These new technologies must help us address the major challenges in our world today, such as increased inequalities and the environmental crisis, and not deepening them,” said Gabriela Ramos, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences.

The recommendation

The recommendation encompasses protection of data; banning social scoring and mass surveillance; tools for assessment of readiness and the impact of AI implementation; protection of the environment and the fight against climate change.

The UNESCO recommendation “ensures that digital transformations promote human rights and contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, addressing issues around transparency, accountability and privacy, with action-oriented policy chapters on data governance, education, culture, labour, healthcare and the economy.”

Related Story: China Unveils Guidelines For Ethical AI

Image: Audrey Azoulay, currently UNESCO Director-General, in 2017 via Flickr

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