NEW YORK – All member nations of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) adopted on Thursday a historical text that defines the common values and principles needed to ensure the healthy development of artificial intelligence (AI).
AI is present in everyday life, from booking flights and applying for loans to steering driverless cars. It is also used in specialized fields, such as cancer screening, or to help create inclusive environments for the disabled.
According to UNESCO, AI is also supporting the decision-making of governments and the private sector, as well as helping combat global problems such as climate change and world hunger.
However, the agency warns that the technology ‘is bringing unprecedented challenges’.
"We see increased gender and ethnic bias, significant threats to privacy, dignity, and agency, dangers of mass surveillance, and increased use of unreliable AI technologies in law enforcement, to name a few. Until now, there were no universal standards to provide an answer to these issues," UNESCO said in a statement.
Considering this, the adopted text aims to guide the construction of 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 a major answer. It sets the first global normative framework while giving States the responsibility to apply it at their level. UNESCO will support its 193 Member States in its implementation and ask them to report regularly on their progress and practices," UNESCO chief Audrey Azoulay said.
The text aims to highlight the advantages of AI while reducing the risks it also entails.
According to the agency, it provides a guide to ensure that digital transformations promote human rights and contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, addressing issues around transparency, accountability, and privacy, with action-oriented policy chapters on data governance, education, culture, labor, healthcare, and the economy.
One of its main calls is to protect data, going beyond what technology firms and governments are doing to guarantee individuals more protection by ensuring transparency, agency, and control over their personal data.
The recommendation also explicitly bans the use of AI systems for social scoring and mass surveillance.
The text also underscores that AI actors should favor data, energy, and resource-efficient methods that will help ensure that AI becomes a more prominent tool in the fight against climate change and in tackling environmental issues.
"Decisions impacting millions of people should be fair, transparent, and contestable. These new technologies must help us address the major challenges in our world today, such as increased inequalities and the environmental crisis, and not deepening them," said Gabriela Ramos, UNESCO’s Assistant Director General for Social and Human Sciences. (WAM)