Thomas Schneider, Chair of the Committee on Artificial Intelligence (CAI) at the Council of Europe, explains how the world is cooperating to ensure the protection of human rights and democracy as the use of AI technology increases.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems are There has been a significant increase in popularity in recent years, and are particularly in the limelight in 2023 with the introduction of a special type of system called the ‘large language model’ (LLM). Examples of such systems include ChatGPT and Bard.

Although AI technology, of which the LLM is just one example, is still a work in progress, it is already clear that its use AI systems will profoundly change our working lives, personal lives, and – perhaps most important in the big picture – how we organize and govern our societies. This is not because algorithms are actually more intelligent than humans, but because they provide economic stability and efficiency in the performance of many basic and advanced tasks at a level at which most forms of human intelligence cannot compete.

Concerns about the use of AI

While public debate generally focuses on the economic benefits and harms of using AI technology, the introduction of AI systems into public administration and the judicial system – but also their use by private actors in relation to the provision of certain essential services. If AI systems assist or even replace human decision-making, serious concerns arise about how to ensure the continued protection of human rights and democracy, and respect for the rule of law. Their use can also have a significant impact on democratic processes, including the right to elect, assembly and association, and the right to hold opinions and to receive or provide information – in short, the core elements of a liberal democracy.

Thus the time has come for all states and intergovernmental organizations around the world to address the challenges posed by AI technology and create the necessary legal framework that will spur much needed innovation, but not at the cost of human rights and fundamental freedoms . We need to carefully consider how we can improve the way our societies function, improve the protection of our environment, and grow our economies without inadvertently creating an undemocratic and undemocratic world governed by the rule of algorithms rather than the rule of law. How can we use AI systems to boost ,

Controlling the use of AI technology

In 2019, the Council of Europe, the continent’s oldest intergovernmental regional organization with 46 member states and perhaps most widely known around the world for its European Court of Human Rights, conducted significant work on the feasibility and need for an international treaty based on AI. began. Its own and other relevant international legal standards in the fields of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. The results of this important internationally pioneering work led to the creation of the Committee on Artificial Intelligence (CAI) in 2022. The CAI’s task is to elaborate a Framework Convention on AI Technology that will set out legally binding requirements, principles, rights and obligations with respect to the design, development, use and decommissioning of AI systems from a human rights perspective. and the rule of law approach.

a global outlook

‘No man is an island’, as the saying goes, and no region of the world can stand entirely on its own. We are all part of a globalized economy and ultimately face the same challenges and policy choices. AI technology has no borders, and a meaningful international standard-setting for human rights and democracy aspects related to AI systems clearly cannot be limited to a specific region of the world. Accordingly, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe has decided to allow willing non-European states that share the values ​​and objectives of the Council of Europe to engage in the negotiations, and an increasing number of states from around the world have already have joined, or are in the process of joining, our efforts.

Likewise, it has been important for the Council of Europe to closely involve relevant non-state actors in these negotiations. The CAI currently has 61 civil society and industry representatives as observers, participating in the dialogue together with representatives of states and other international organizations and relevant bodies and committees of the Council of Europe.

protect human rights and democracy

In the European region, the European Union (EU) plays a key role in regulating AI systems for its 27 member states and, for this reason, is directly involved in Council of Europe negotiations on their behalf. When implemented, the EU AI Act and the Framework Convention of the Council of Europe are set to mutually reinforce each other, providing an example of how best to use the combined strengths and competencies of both European organisations. does.

Draft Framework Convention (a consolidated The ‘Working Draft’ for the CAI is publicly available on the Council of Europe website) focuses on ensuring that the use of AI technology does not create a legal vacuum in terms of the protection of human rights, democracy and the functioning of democratic processes, or respect for the principle of the rule of law. In line with the findings of a feasibility study prepared by the former Ad Hoc Committee on Artificial Intelligence (CAHAI), which preceded the CAI, it does not aim to create new concrete human rights specific to the AI ​​context, but to guarantee that existing international Human rights and fundamental freedoms specifically protected by law cannot be violated. This would be achieved by requiring regulators, developers, providers and other AI actors to consider human rights and risks to democracy and the rule of law from the moment of conception and throughout the lifecycle of these systems. In addition, the system of legal remedies available to victims of human rights violations should be updated in view of the specific challenges posed by AI technologies such as their transparency and interpretability.

threat to democracy

When it comes to potential threats to democracy and democratic processes arising from AI technology, in particular, the potential for such systems to be used to manipulate or deceive individuals, which will be addressed by the treaty . This includes the use of so-called ‘deep fakes’, microtargeting, or more direct interference with rights to freedom of expression, to form and hold opinions, freedom of assembly and association, and to receive or provide information. The Framework Convention will include legally binding obligations for parties to provide effective protection against such practices.

The ‘rule of law’ is a long-standing legal-philosophical concept that includes, among other things, the idea that governments, as well as private actors, are accountable under the law; The law must be clear and publicized; laws are enacted, administered and enforced in an accessible, fair and efficient manner; And everyone is guaranteed access to fair dispute resolution. It is clear that this basic assumption of what constitutes a fair and liberal, law-abiding society must be respected when designing and using AI systems that may be used in sensitive contexts, such as law enforcement. Drafting, Public. administration, and at least the administration of justice through the courts of law. The Framework Convention will also set out specific obligations for the Parties in this regard.

A Balancing Act: A Risk-Based Approach to AI

The Draft Framework Convention – and indeed all of CAI’s work – take a risk-based approach to the design, development, use and decommissioning of AI systems, and in doing so place a premium on human dignity and agency. It is important that we do not get swayed by the apparent possibilities offered by AI technology without carefully considering the potential negative consequences of using AI systems in different contexts. The draft Framework Convention therefore also obliges Parties to raise awareness and encourage an informed public debate on how AI technology should be used.

As is clear from the above, AI and other new and emerging digital technologies raise many fundamental questions. Challenges to Democratic Societies, At the same time, these technologies also provide us with the opportunity to make invaluable advances in the improvement of science, medicine, safety and the environment, just to mention a few key areas. They also promise to boost the global economy and ultimately create better living conditions for all of humanity. Some influential voices in the public debate have recently been calling for a curtailment or even a ban on AI technology, as they believe the dangers it poses far outweigh its benefits. While the legitimate concerns raised about AI need to be taken seriously, we must accept that the genie is out of the bottle, and there is no way we can effectively hold back scientific and technological advances , which has enabled advanced and powerful manufacturing. AI System.

Therefore, the realistic approach should be to find ways to use AI and other digital technologies responsibly and ensure that as many people as possible around the world can benefit from them and enjoy protection from any misuse of such technologies.

This is a mammoth task that requires concerted efforts from like-minded states and support from civil society, the tech industry and academia to make it a success. It is our hope and ambition that the Framework Convention, which the Council of Europe is engaged in elaborating with states around the world, will provide some of the much needed legal clarity and guarantees of protection of fundamental rights and become a central Points for current and future discussion on how to design balanced and sustainable policy solutions to the challenges posed by the introduction of new and powerful digital technologies to human rights and democracy.

Please note, this article will also be published in our fifteenth edition quarterly publication,

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