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Laying Down the Law on Rule Delays | The Regulatory Review
In its mission to promote innovation and emerging technologies, and in the promotion of Trustworthy AI, the European Union has the responsibility to ensure respect for democratic values, human rights, and the rule of law. The concept of Trustworthy AI is introduced and defined by the Guidelines as a voluntary framework to achieve legal, ethical, and robust AI.
The Guidelines then lay out a list of requirements and an assessment list to operationalise this concept. Any attempt to formulate a set of ethics guidelines faces two significant challenges: on the one hand, the lack of ultimate consensus about ethical standards; on the other, the fact that guidelines are always only voluntary. The Guidelines tackles the first of these challenges by founding ethical principles on human rights. The four ethical principles, which it presents as imperatives for those developing and deploying AI systems, are the following:.
These principles can draw force from their explicit grounding in human rights.
Laying Down the Law on Rule Delays
Asking high-level ethical questions based on these four principles can be a way for those designing and deploying AI systems to reflect upon the potential ethical and human rights implications of their work. In this way, ethics and human rights can reinforce one another. The second challenge for any set of ethical guidelines lies in their voluntary nature. Where ethics lacks the means of enforcement, international human rights law possesses well-developed standards and institutions as well as a universal framework for safeguards.
Ethical principles grounded in human rights can take advantage of this well-established structure to ensure that AI is developed, deployed, and used in a manner that respects our fundamental rights.
Laying down the law
First, the process to generate these guidelines has been misguided from the start. In addition to inadequate stakeholder representation, the imbalance gave out-sized influence to industry concerns. Beyond this issue of group composition and despite the strength of their ethical framework, there are several substantive points where the guidelines fall short.
Trustworthy AI has three fundamental components: it should be lawful, ethical, and robust.
While the Trustworthy AI guidelines discuss ethics at length, they miss at least one key issue concerning robustness and they entirely omit the legal component. Regarding robustness, what the guidelines fail to address is the disturbing link between the recent scandals surrounding Big Tech and the advertising business model which dominates the industry — with or without the AI component.
In terms of the legal component of Trustworthy AI, the guidelines do state that AI systems must respect all applicable laws and regulations, but they acknowledge that law can often lag behind the pace of technological change.
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The HLEG assumes that ethics is best placed to fill this gap and provide guidance where existing rules fail to provide coverage. While ethical reasoning and individual conscience certainly have a role to play, we believe that it is important to stress the role of human rights here.
Beyond their embodiment in specific laws, human rights offer us a broad and well-defined set of principles to cover all instances in which our dignity and integrity are threatened. The danger with focusing too much on ethics is that we lose sight of the ultimate goal of formalising the principles of Trustworthy AI into enforceable laws.
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