In a historical moment, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) adopted the first ever global standard on the ethics of Artificial Intelligence (AI), which explicitly bans the use of AI systems for social scoring and mass surveillance.
The 193 members of UNESCO adopted the guidelines, which sets out common values and principles to ensure the healthy development of Artificial Intelligence .
Though Artificial Intelligence is used in everyday life, from booking flights and applying for loans to steering driverless cars the UNESCO warns that the technology “is bringing unprecedented challenges”.
In an official statement, the UN Agency said; “we see increased 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, to name a few. Until now, there were no universal standards to provide an answer to these issues.”
The guidelines aim to bring in necessary legal infrastructure to ensure the ethical development of the technology.
Noting that rules are needed for Artificial Intelligence to benefit humanity, UNESCO chief Azoulay said that 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,” Audrey said.
In the guidelines, the UN Agency highlights the advantages of AI and also talks about reducing the risks it entails. According to the agency, it provides a guide to ensure 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.
The UNESCO in the guidelines has given emphasis to protect data, going beyond what tech firms and governments are doing to guarantee individuals more protection by ensuring transparency, agency and control over their personal data. The Recommendation also explicitly bans the use of AI systems for social scoring and mass surveillance.
It emphasises that AI actors should favour data, energy and resource-efficient methods that will help ensure that the technology becomes a more prominent tool in the fight against climate change and in tackling environmental issues.
UNESCO’s Assistant Director General for Social and Human Sciences Gabriela Ramos noted; “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.”