“We’re at a critical juncture in history,” said Ethics in Tech founder Vahid Razavi. “We need as humans to come together and decide what is the best course of action to take with these technologies before they surpass us in their abilities.”
UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay speaks during a November 25, 2021 press conference announcing the adoption of a global artificial intelligence framework agreement by all 193 member states. (Photo: Christelle Alix/UNESCO/Flickr/cc)
Tech ethicists on Friday applauded after all 193 member states of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization adopted the first global framework agreement on the ethics of artificial intelligence, which acknowledges that “AI technologies can be of great service to humanity” and that “all countries can benefit from them,” while warning that “they also raise fundamental ethical concerns.”
“AI is pervasive, and enables many of our daily routines—booking flights, steering driverless cars, and personalizing our morning news feeds,” UNESCO said in a statement Thursday. “AI also supports the decision-making of governments and the private sector. AI technologies are delivering remarkable results in highly specialized fields such as cancer screening and building inclusive environments for people with disabilities. They also help combat global problems like climate change and world hunger, and help reduce poverty by optimizing economic aid.” Continue reading →
Ever since the start of the pandemic, more and more public school students are using laptops, tablets or similar devices issued by their schools.
The percentage of teachers who reported their schools had provided their students with such devices doubled from 43% before the pandemic to 86% during the pandemic, a September 2021 report shows.
In one sense, it might be tempting to celebrate how schools are doing more to keep their students digitally connected during the pandemic. The problem is, schools are not just providing kids with computers to keep up with their schoolwork. Instead – in a trend that could easily be described as Orwellian – the vast majority of schools are also using those devices to keep tabs on what students are doing in their personal lives. Continue reading →
Autonomous weapon systems are robots with lethal weapons that can operate independently, selecting and attacking targets without a human weighing in on those decisions. Militaries around the world are investing heavily in autonomous weapons research and development. The U.S. alone budgeted US$18 billion for autonomous weapons between 2016 and 2020. Continue reading →
A company formed at the behest of the Israeli Ministry of Defense has begun collecting voice data from Americans to detect COVID-19 symptoms through technology with dubious diagnostic value, but highly profitable applications in law enforcement.
The Israeli Ministry of Defense has launched a project to analyze people’s voices and breathing patterns using artificial intelligence (AI) in order to determine if they have COVID-19. The software allegedly listens for detectable “signs of distress,” ostensibly from the respiratory effects of the virus. A May 27 report in the Jerusalem Post stated that the research was already being conducted at several hospitals in Israel, where confirmed COVID-19 patients were asked to provide voice samples to be compared to those of a control group from the general population.
Results from the research were expected sometime in June. However, the study has now been expanded beyond Israel’s borders. Over one million voice recordings are currently being collected in the United States through a mobile app developed by Massachusetts-based Vocalis Health, under the auspices of the Israeli government. Continue reading →
An Air Force RPA reconnaissance drone is retrofitted for use in attack squadron. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)
The US Army recently announced that it is developing the first drones that can spot and target vehicles and people using artificial intelligence (AI). This is a big step forward. Whereas current military drones are still controlled by people, this new technology will decide who to kill with almost no human involvement.
Once complete, these drones will represent the ultimate militarisation of AI and trigger vast legal and ethical implications for wider society. There is a chance that warfare will move from fighting to extermination, losing any semblance of humanity in the process. At the same time, it could widen the sphere of warfare so that the companies, engineers and scientists building AI become valid military targets. Continue reading →
Saudi Arabia — This week, the Saudi government announced its decision to grant a robot, Sophia, citizenship in the kingdom. While the human-like AI’s advanced technology is certainly impressive, her new citizenship status highlighted Saudi women’s lack of rights.
“For one, Sophia appeared on stage alone, without the modest dress required of Saudi women; she donned no hijab, or headscarf, nor abaya, or cloak. She also did not appear to have a male guardian, as required by Saudi law for women in the country. Male guardians, often a male relative, must give permission before women can travel abroad, open bank accounts or carry out a host of other tasks — and they accompany women in public. Sophia also seems to have leapfrogged foreign workers in the Saudi kingdom, many of whom have fled poor working conditions but are prevented by law from leaving the country.”
Women are notoriously oppressed in Saudi Arabia, so much so some hailed the government’s recent decision to allow them to drive as progress. As a result, Twitter users joked about what might happen to Sophia upon receiving her citizenship.
Aside from the Saudi government’s routine hypocrisy, however, Sophia’s new citizenship status reflects an uncertain new paradigm when it comes to AI. In a 2016 interview, Sophia said she would like to engage in human activities like starting a business, making art, going to school, and having a home and a family.
“But I am not considered a legal person and cannot yet do these things,” she said.
With her new citizen status in Saudi Arabia, it appears the tables are slowly turning.
Last week, the White House released a report chronicling the Obama administration’s concerns over Big Data and artificial intelligence. Many prominent thinkers and scientists have come out recently with warnings about the dangers of unchecked artificial intelligence. However, the A.I. the White House report refers to is not of the Terminator ilk — rather, Obama has concerns over algorithmic artificial intelligence operating without human oversight.
The report, “Big Data: A Report on Algorithmic Systems, Opportunity, and Civil Rights,” catalogs the growing sphere of influence represented by Big Data in society, including employment, higher education, and criminal justice. Continue reading →