TODAY’S FOCUS: THE HIGH-LEVEL CONFERENCE OF THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE ON THE IMPACTS OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE DEVELOPMENTS ON HUMAN RIGHTS, DEMOCRACY AND THE RULE OF LAW

  • TODAY’S FOCUS: THE HIGH-LEVEL CONFERENCE OF THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE ON THE IMPACTS OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE DEVELOPMENTS ON HUMAN RIGHTS, DEMOCRACY AND THE RULE OF LAW
  • TODAY’S FOCUS: THE HIGH-LEVEL CONFERENCE OF THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE ON THE IMPACTS OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE DEVELOPMENTS ON HUMAN RIGHTS, DEMOCRACY AND THE RULE OF LAW
  • TODAY’S FOCUS: THE HIGH-LEVEL CONFERENCE OF THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE ON THE IMPACTS OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE DEVELOPMENTS ON HUMAN RIGHTS, DEMOCRACY AND THE RULE OF LAW
Issue 122, April 2019.
TODAY’S FOCUS: THE HIGH-LEVEL CONFERENCE OF THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE ON THE IMPACTS OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE DEVELOPMENTS ON HUMAN RIGHTS, DEMOCRACY AND THE RULE OF LAW
 
Ukraine is one of the 47 members of the Council of Europe (CoE), the prominent international organization with headquarters in Strasbourg, France. The CoE’s member states are exclusively European. As a member state of the CoE, Ukraine participates in all the organization’s bodies, contributing actively to their respective activities and work. 
 
In a nutshell, the foundations of the organization anchor the universal values and principles of Human Rights, democracy and the rule of law. The CoE’s achievements in the process of materializing its values in cooperation with the European Union and the United Nations are countless. A myriad of documents reaching out to national legislators and public officials have been adopted since 1949. Taking into account the dimension of the Information Technology (IT) industry and outsourcing or offshoring in manufacturing companies within the Lviv Oblast, we will focus today on one introductory general comment, the main conclusions reached at the High-Level Conference Governing the Game Changer – Impacts of Artificial Intelligence development on Human Rights, democracy and the rule of law, held in Helsinki, Finland in the last days of February 2019, and its implications for industry in the Lviv Oblast. It should be acknowledged that artificial intelligence (AI) represents today one of the main cross-cutting issues touching upon many, if not most of the works undertaken at the CoE.
 
This said, panellists’ presentations set forth repeatedly not only quality aspects, but also issues related to biases and prejudices incorporated into AI tools. Most significantly, after using appropriate data processing techniques and algorithms, final outputs of the AI process virtually always replicate biases and prejudices. This consideration has deep implications in various fields for the CoE. 
 
In France, decisions rendered by educational institutions have already been challenged before Courts on the basis that the criteria used by algorithms were inappropriately managed. Are changes drawn to the fundamental right to education, a core element in the realm of Human Rights, simply by machine-made decisions? 
 
Moreover, what about a surgeon bluntly relying on machine-processed results, instead of using his/her own professional judgment. Where is the right to the protection of health of the patient, enshrined also in the Human Rights Convention? 
 
And what can be said about the use by insurance companies of software to determine liability in car accidents – usually done without clear disclosure to the client? This latter case bears no correlation with the beneficial privatisation of dispute resolution procedures, but opens many unanswered questions related to transparency, accountability, Human Rights and the rule of law. 
 
At the end of the day, according to these facts, machines should not be considered anymore neutral and without prejudice. And not only this, but the painstakingly developed legal standards at the Council of Europe during the last decades, must now imperatively be incorporated into decision-support systems of all kinds.
 
The conclusions of the Conference begin with the recognition that AI impacts on the exercise of Human Rights, the functioning of democratic societies and the rule of law. Consequently, AI requires timely and thoughtful policy responses. It must be placed on top of the governments’ political agenda. This conclusion leaves out of sight the options of self-regulation and soft laws. Some panellists endorsed this option.
 
One of the main risks with AI is that at the end the technology will govern humanity instead of humanity controlling AI. In other words, the participants to the High-Level Conference concluded that AI ought to be developed in a human-centric manner. Of course, AI affects all aspects of human life globally and transversally. A holistic approach to AI is therefore needed. 
 
Effective supervisory mechanisms and democratic oversight structures must be put in place. An open question in this matter relates to the ideal profile for such filters. Possibly, the better option would be to create non-governmental, non-partisan and non-political structures, so as to avoid political interferences as experienced in some election processes lately.
 
Education, risk assessments, and inter-disciplinary and independent research into the impacts of AI on Human Rights, democracy and the rule of law will allow large parts of society to engage actively in the revolution that is currently already underway.
 
Finally, it would be preposterous to contend that the information processing technology and machine learning tools do not rationalize services and deliver enormous efficiency gains in a wide range of fields. AI tools are rapidly transforming not only society, but also the economy around the world. 
 
The Information Technology industry in the Lviv Oblast will doubtlessly reap benefits from this process. Foreign companies need inputs from well-prepared Ukrainian programmers delivering their services as requested.
 
And yet the outlook for another branch of the economy should also be taken into account here. In the local manufacturing industry based around Lviv, offshoring and outsourcing ventures abound. Foreign investors were attracted in the past to this region. In future, they will face the possibility to engage in cheaper, more capable, and more flexible technologies that will become available for fully automated production sites in their respective home countries. Aspects that will come into consideration for the foreign investor include the possibility to engage competent technicians to oversee the production process and the setting aside of many complex logistical questions that must be solved currently. 
 
No question, changes are on the horizon for the local IT and manufacturing industries.
 
About author: J.R. Iturriagagoitia, LLM (Georgetown University), Abogado (Madrid), partner at MS PARTNERS, LAW FIRM (www.mspartners.com.ua)