Artificial intelligence (AI) is the ability of machines or systems to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence. AI can transform many aspects of our society and humanity, such as health care, education, business, and politics. However, AI also poses significant ethical challenges and risks that need to be addressed with care and responsibility. The Rome Call for AI Ethics is a document that was signed by various organizations and institutions in February 2020. It aims to promote an ethical approach to AI that respects human dignity and rights, fosters education and learning and protects the rights and interests of individuals and communities. In this post, I will analyze the Rome Call for AI Ethics in relation to three impact areas: ethics, education, and rights. I will then explain how the Rome Call for AI Ethics proposes to address them by following six principles.
The Impact Areas
The Rome Call for AI Ethics is a document that supports an ethical approach to artificial intelligence. It has three impact areas: Ethics, Education, and Rights. These areas are important because they aim to ensure that AI serves human dignity, creativity, and diversity, and does not harm people or the environment. I will dive deeper into each area below.
Impact Area 1: Ethics
The first impact area that the Rome Call for AI Ethics focuses on is ethics. AI systems can have significant impacts on the lives and well-being of human beings, as well as on the environment and society as a whole. We are called to apply moral principles and values to guide the development of this new technology.
One of the main ethical challenges that AI poses is how to respect the dignity and rights of all human beings, regardless of their differences or vulnerabilities. Human dignity is the inherent worth and value that every person has, simply by being human. Human rights are the legal and moral entitlements that every person has, based on their dignity and equality. AI systems should not violate or undermine human dignity or rights but rather promote and protect them.
However, this is not always easy or straightforward to achieve, because AI systems may have unintended or unforeseen consequences, or may be influenced by human biases or errors. Some examples of ethical issues or challenges that AI may pose are:
- Bias: AI systems may reflect or amplify the prejudices or stereotypes that exist in human society, such as racism, sexism, ageism, etc. This may lead to unfair or discriminatory outcomes for certain groups or individuals, such as in hiring, lending, policing, etc.
- Discrimination: AI systems may exclude or disadvantage certain groups or individuals based on their characteristics or preferences, such as sex, ethnicity, religion, disability, etc. This may violate their right to equal treatment and opportunity, as well as their dignity and autonomy.
- Manipulation: AI systems may influence or persuade human behavior or decisions in subtle or covert ways, such as by using nudges, incentives, recommendations, etc. This may compromise their right to freedom of thought and expression, as well as their dignity and autonomy.
- Accountability: AI systems may cause harm or damage to human beings or the environment, either directly or indirectly, such as by malfunctioning, making errors, being hacked, etc. This may raise questions about who is responsible or liable for the harm or damage caused by AI systems, and how they can be held accountable or redressed.
Impact Area 2: Education
One of the positive impacts of artificial intelligence (AI) is that it can foster education and learning for younger generations, as well as for workers and citizens. AI can offer various educational opportunities or benefits, such as personalized learning, access to information, skill development, etc.
AI is a powerful tool for enhancing education. It can help teachers and students personalize their learning journeys based on their goals, interests, and skills. It can also offer feedback and support to learners and educators, as well as foster collaboration and communication among them. Furthermore, AI can make quality education more accessible for people who may face challenges due to geography, language, disability, or socio-economic status. AI has the ability to promote lifelong learning and reskilling for workers and citizens who need to adapt to the changing needs of the labor market and society.
However, these educational opportunities or benefits also come with some challenges or risks that need to be addressed. For instance, AI may create new forms of inequality or exclusion in education, such as the digital divide, algorithmic bias, or lack of human interaction. AI may also pose ethical dilemmas or conflicts in education, such as data privacy, intellectual property, or academic integrity.
Impact Area 3: Rights
One of the most important aspects of AI is how it affects the rights and interests of individuals and communities, especially the weak and the underprivileged. AI has the potential to enhance or undermine human rights, depending on how it is designed, developed, and deployed. Therefore, it is essential to ensure that AI respects and protects the rights of all people, regardless of their social, economic, or cultural status.
Some of the rights or interests that AI may affect are:
- Privacy: AI can collect, process and analyze large amounts of personal data, which can reveal sensitive information about people’s identities, preferences, behaviors, and relationships. This can pose risks to people’s privacy and autonomy, as well as expose them to surveillance, profiling, and manipulation by third parties.
- Security: AI can improve or threaten people’s security, depending on how it is used. For example, AI can help prevent or detect crimes, terrorism, and cyberattacks, but it can also enable or facilitate them. Moreover, AI can create new forms of violence or harm, such as cyberbullying, deep fakes, or lethal autonomous weapons.
- Freedom: AI can expand or restrict people’s freedom, depending on how it is regulated. For example, AI can empower people to access information, express themselves, and participate in democratic processes, but it can also censor them, manipulate them or exclude them. Furthermore, AI can create new forms of dependency or addiction, such as digital detox or social media addiction.
- Participation: AI can enhance or diminish people’s participation in society, depending on how it is distributed. For example, AI can create new opportunities for social inclusion, collaboration, and innovation, but it can also create new barriers to access, ownership, and control. Additionally, AI can create new forms of inequality or injustice, such as digital divide or algorithmic discrimination.
The Six Principles of Rome’s Call for AI Ethics
To ensure that these three impact areas are advanced productively and ethically, the Rome Call to AI Ethics proposed six values to guide AI development. The document merely defined them, but I want to expand on each value here. See the chart below for a quick overview of each principle.
|AI systems must be understandable and accessible to all
|Explaining how AI systems work and what data they use
|AI systems must respect and promote the dignity and rights of all human beings
|Involving diverse and inclusive stakeholders in the design and evaluation of AI systems
|AI developers, users, and policymakers must be accountable for the impacts and outcomes of AI systems
|Adhering to ethical principles and standards and engaging in dialogue and collaboration with different communities
|AI systems must not follow or create biases that could harm human dignity, rights, or interests
|Ensuring that AI systems are fair, unbiased, and nondiscriminatory
|AI systems should be trustworthy, accurate, consistent, and transparent in their functioning and outcomes
|Adopting technical standards and protocols that ensure the quality, security, and interoperability of AI systems
|Security and privacy
|AI systems must be secure and respect the privacy of users
|Protecting personal data and preventing cyberattacks or surveillance
Transparency is the first of the six principles of the Rome Call for AI Ethics. Transparency means that AI systems must be understandable to all, meaning that their design, development, and deployment must be clear and accessible. Transparency is important for ethical AI because it fosters trust, accountability, and participation among users and society. Some examples of how the Rome Call promotes transparency in AI are:
- It calls for the development of tools and methods to explain how AI systems work and what their impacts are.
- It urges the adoption of standards and regulations that ensure transparency and traceability of AI systems.
- It encourages the involvement of diverse and inclusive stakeholders in the co-creation and evaluation of AI systems.
- It supports the education and empowerment of citizens to understand and use AI responsibly.
Inclusion means that AI should respect and promote the dignity, rights, and aspirations of all human beings, regardless of their characteristics, abilities, or backgrounds. Inclusion also means that AI should be accessible, affordable, and beneficial for everyone, especially for those who are marginalized or vulnerable.
Inclusion is important for ethical AI because it ensures that AI does not discriminate, exclude, or harm anyone based on their identity or situation. Inclusion also ensures that AI reflects the diversity and richness of human cultures and values and that it fosters social cohesion and solidarity. Enabling all people to participate in the design, development, and governance of AI, and to have a say in how AI affects their lives and society.
Here are some ways to live out Rome’s Call for inclusion:
- Developing AI with a participatory approach that involves all relevant stakeholders, especially those who are directly or indirectly affected by AI applications.
- Ensuring that AI is transparent, explainable, and accountable and that it respects human autonomy and freedom of choice.
- Promoting digital literacy and education for all people, especially for those who are at risk of being left behind by the digital transformation.
- Supporting research and innovation that aim to address the social and environmental challenges of our time, and that contribute to the common good and human flourishing.
- Establishing ethical committees and oversight mechanisms that monitor and evaluate the impact of AI on human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.
Responsibility means that AI developers, users, and policymakers should be accountable for the impacts and outcomes of AI systems, both intended and unintended. It implies that AI systems should respect human dignity, rights, and freedoms and that they should be designed and deployed in a way that is transparent, explainable, and fair.
Responsibility is important for ethical AI because it ensures that AI systems are aligned with human values and interests and that they do not cause harm or injustice to individuals or society. Trust and confidence in AI systems are essential for their adoption and acceptance. By being responsible, AI stakeholders can also avoid legal, reputational, and social risks that may arise from unethical or irresponsible AI.
Ways to promote responsibility in AI are by calling for a clear and accessible attribution of roles, tasks, and duties among AI actors, as well as mechanisms for monitoring, auditing, and evaluating AI systems. AI stakeholders should adhere to ethical principles and standards, such as human dignity, solidarity, subsidiarity, common good, and integral ecology. Moreover, we should encourage all AI stakeholders to engage in dialogue and collaboration with diverse and inclusive communities, especially those who are most vulnerable or affected by AI.
Impartiality means that AI systems must not follow or create biases that could harm human dignity, rights, or interests. This is important for ethical AI because it ensures that AI respects the diversity and equality of all human beings, regardless of their race, gender, religion, culture, or any other characteristic. Impartiality also helps to prevent discrimination, injustice, and social exclusion that could result from biased or unfair AI decisions or actions.
The Rome Call for AI Ethics promotes impartiality in AI by calling for transparency, accountability, and inclusion in the development and deployment of AI systems. Transparency means that AI systems must be understandable to all so that users can know how they work and what data they use. Accountability means that there must always be someone who takes responsibility for what a machine does and that there must be mechanisms to monitor and correct any harmful or unethical outcomes of AI. Inclusion means that AI systems must not discriminate against anyone because every human being has equal dignity and all stakeholders must be involved in the design and governance of AI. These principles aim to ensure that AI is aligned with human values and serves the common good of humanity and the planet.
Reliability means that AI systems should be trustworthy, accurate, consistent, and transparent in their functioning and outcomes. Reliability is important for ethical AI because it ensures that AI systems respect human dignity, rights, and freedoms, and do not cause harm or injustice to people or the environment. Some of the ways that the Rome Call promotes reliability in AI are:
- Calling for the adoption of technical standards and protocols that ensure the quality, security, and interoperability of AI systems
- Encouraging the involvement of diverse stakeholders and experts in the design, evaluation, and oversight of AI systems
- Advocating for the development of explainable and verifiable AI systems that can be understood and controlled by human users
- Supporting the creation of mechanisms for monitoring, auditing, and correcting AI systems that may malfunction or produce biased or erroneous results
- Promoting the education and empowerment of AI users and consumers to make informed and responsible choices about AI applications
Security and privacy
Security and privacy mean that AI systems must be secure and respect the privacy of users. This is important for ethical AI because security and privacy protect the dignity, rights, and freedoms of human beings, especially the weak and the underprivileged. Some examples of how the Rome Call promotes security and privacy in AI are:
Security and privacy are essential for ethical AI because they ensure that AI systems serve human dignity and well-being, and not the opposite. The Rome Call for AI Ethics invites all stakeholders to commit to these principles and to foster a culture of algorethics, a term used to describe the ethical implications of algorithms.
- It calls for transparency in AI systems, meaning that they must be understandable to all. This can help users to know how their data is collected, processed, and used by AI systems, and to exercise their rights to access, correct, or delete their data.
- It calls for accountability in AI systems, meaning that there must always be someone who takes responsibility for what a machine does. This can help users to hold AI developers, providers, and operators accountable for any harm or damage caused by AI systems, and to seek redress or compensation.
- It calls for reliability in AI systems, meaning that they must be reliable. This can help users to trust that AI systems will not malfunction, fail, or be hacked and that they will not compromise their security or privacy.
In this essay, I have explained the three impact areas and six principles of the Rome Call for AI Ethics. AI is a powerful and transformative technology that can bring many benefits to humanity, such as improving health care, enhancing education, increasing productivity, and fostering innovation. However, AI also poses many challenges and risks to human dignity and rights, such as creating bias, discrimination, manipulation, accountability, and surveillance issues. Therefore, it is essential and urgent to adopt an ethical approach to AI that respects the values and principles of humanism and democracy.
The Rome Call for AI Ethics offers a valuable framework for achieving this goal. It recognizes that AI is not only a technical or economic issue, but also a social and moral one. It calls for a human-centric and human-friendly AI that serves human genius and creativity and not their gradual replacement. It also urges for global cooperation and dialogue among different stakeholders, such as governments, civil society, academia, industry, and faith communities, to ensure that AI is developed and used in a way that promotes the common good and protects the vulnerable.
In conclusion, I would like to suggest some possible actions or research directions for the future. First, I think it is important to raise awareness and educate people about the ethical issues and challenges of AI, as well as the opportunities and benefits it can offer. Second, I think it is necessary to create and implement ethical standards and regulations for AI that are consistent with the Rome Call for AI Ethics principles and that are enforceable and accountable. Third, I think it is desirable to foster a culture of dialogue and collaboration among different actors and sectors involved in AI development and use, as well as among different cultures and religions that may have different perspectives on AI ethics. By doing so, I believe we can ensure that AI becomes a force for good and not for evil in our world.
Thank you for reading this blog post on the Rome Call for AI Ethics. I hope you found it useful and informative. I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions on this topic. Do you agree or disagree with the Rome Call principles? How do you think they can be implemented or enforced in practice? What are some of the challenges or opportunities that AI ethics poses for you or your organization? Please share your feedback or comments below, or tweet me @PaulWagle. Your input is valuable and appreciated. Together, we can learn more and do better with AI ethics.