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  • Writer's pictureJohn Ennis

Eye on AI - October 22nd, 2021

Welcome to Aigora's "Eye on AI" series, where we round up exciting news at the intersection of consumer science and artificial intelligence!


This week, we’ll be looking at the need and feasibility of creating a ‘Bill of Rights’ to protect Americans against the threats of invasive AI.


AI Abuse Threatens Adoption and Basic Human Freedoms

Since the creation of AI, those who understood the technology recognized its potential for abuse. Data quickly became the new oil; and many of those who collected and controlled it evolved into modern-day barons. Like the barons before them, they cut corners, abused users, and implemented invasive and inhumane practices to monopolize their resources. Many of these practices are still in place –– there are even autocracies that use AI as a tool of state-sponsored oppression, division, and discrimination. Yet more often than not, AI abuses are unintentional, resulting mostly from poor training practices or training models on biased, unaudited data.

“Mortgage approval algorithms to determine credit worthiness can readily infer that certain home zip codes are correlated with race and poverty, extending decades of housing discrimination into the digital age,” writes WIRED contributors Eric Lander and Alondra Nelson. “AI can recommend medical support for groups that access hospital services most often, rather than those who need them most. Training AI indiscriminately on internet conversations can result in “sentiment analysis” that views the words ‘Black,’ ‘Jew,’ and ‘gay’ as negative.”

AI issues persist in other areas as well. There are questions surrounding eavesdropping data collection potential by smart assistants. Wearables collect more data than we know. Machines being built with AI are being positioned to replace blue-collar jobs, though studies show that AI will create more jobs than it will replace. Yet without strong regulatory laws in place, AI will continue to threaten basic human freedoms until these issues are addressed.

The Call for an American AI ‘Bill of Rights’

In an attempt to reign AI abuse, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy recently began looking into ways of creating a new AI ‘Bill of Rights’ similar to the one found in our constitution to protect against AI abuses against basic human freedoms, a process that is described in the article “Americans Need a Bill of Rights for an AI-Powered World”.

“Our country should clarify the rights and freedoms we expect data-driven technologies to respect,” continue Lander and Nelson. “... In the coming months, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (which we lead) will be developing such a bill of rights, working with partners and experts across the federal government, in academia, civil society, the private sector, and communities all over the country.”

Lander and Nelson are careful to note that enumerating this bill is only the first step in a long process. In order for the bill to be successful, protection measures need to be put in place. Some possible additions include the federal government refusing to buy technology products that fail to adhere to these rights, requiring federal contractors to use technologies that adhere to them, adopting new laws and regulations to fill gaps, or strengthening workers’ rights to protect against job replacement. States could even implement their own practices.

While this bill is being created, experts are being asked to give their input on what kind of rights this bill should contain, and the protective measures that need to be put in place to ensure they’re adhered to. The first discussion’s focus is “technologies used to identify people and infer attributes, often called biometrics—including facial recognition, but also systems that can recognize and analyze your voice, physical movements and gestures, heart rate, and more.” Here’s a link to the Federal Register to give your input, which I highly recommend you do if qualified.

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