Artificial intelligence is present in everyday life, from booking flights and applying for loans to driving self-driving cars. It is also used in specialized areas such as cancer screening or to help create inclusive environments for the disabled.
According to UNESCO, AI also supports government and private sector decision-making, as well as helping combat global problems such as climate change and world hunger.
However, the agency warns that the technology poses “unprecedented challenges.”
“We are seeing increasing gender and ethnic prejudice, significant threats to privacy, dignity and power, dangers of mass surveillance and increasing use of unreliable AI technologies in law enforcement, to name a few. Until now, there have been no universal standards to address these issues,” UNESCO said in a statement.
In light of this, the text adopted is intended to provide guidance on building the necessary legal infrastructure to ensure the ethical development of this technology.
“The world needs rules for artificial intelligence to benefit humanity. The recommendation on the ethics of AI is an important answer. It constitutes the first global normative framework while states are given the responsibility to apply it at their level. UNESCO will support its 193 Member States in the implementation and ask them to report regularly on their progress and practices,” said Audrey Azoulay, head of UNESCO.
AI as a positive contribution to humanity
The text aims to highlight the benefits of AI while mitigating the risks associated with it. According to the agency, it provides a guide to ensure that digital transformations advance human rights and contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, addressing issues of transparency, accountability and privacy, with actionable policy chapters on data governance, education, culture, labor , healthcare and economics.
One of the most important calls is to protect data, which go beyond what tech companies and governments do to ensure greater protection for individuals by ensuring transparency, choice and control over their personal data. The recommendation also explicitly prohibits the use of AI systems for social scoring and mass surveillance.
The text also emphasizes that AI actors should favor data, energy and resource efficient methods that will make AI a more prominent tool in the fight against climate change and in addressing environmental issues.
“Decisions that affect millions of people must be fair, transparent and questionable. These new technologies should help us tackle the major challenges in our world today, such as increased inequality and the environmental crisis, not deepen them.” said Gabriela Ramos, UNESCO’s deputy director general for social and human sciences.
You can read the full text here.