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The Ethics of AI Needs a Global; Inclusive Regulatory Framework

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The consensus in the recently concluded two-day Dialogue on Ethics of Artificial Intelligence (AI) was that plural philosophical perspectives and a global and inclusive regulatory framework could balance the risks and benefits to humanity’s quest for social justice and equality.

Convened by United Nations in India and the O P Jindal Global University’s School of Government and Public Policy, the conference brought together top minds on AI. They discussed the emergence of Artificial Intelligence as both a problem and a solution to social issues, and its ethical implications and evaluated the existing frameworks for AI governance.

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An International collaborative approach is imperative because national governments may prefer to take advantage of AI capacity to manipulate public opinion, and ethical principles common to the plurality of philosophical traditions must create the Vision for AI in the future.

Joined by legal experts, technologists, philosophers, theologists, mathematicians, scientists and diplomats, the Dialogue advocated assimilating various philosophical schools of thought – both Eastern and Western – to make the ethical discourse around Artificial Intelligence diverse and inclusive.

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Underlining the need for diverse philosophical views, Renata Dessallien, United Nations Resident Coordinator in India, said: “India brings with it 2500 years of extraordinarily profound, diverse, living, philosophical and spiritual heritage; and it seems only natural that India contributes proactively to this crucial topic.”

Dessallien emphasized the inadequacy of the current ethical thinking around AI. “The impact of AI on human agency, relationality on intentionality not to mention impacts on human flourishing and well-being, is missing from the broader discussion around Ethics of AI. These are often absent or are dealt with in a most cursory manner, yet they are fundamental. We have developed laws, regulatory frameworks to address many of these preoccupations. In some instances, frameworks only extend our existing ethical guardrails from the physical to the digital world. But in other instances, AI challenges our ethical thinking very profoundly.”

Amitabh Kant, CEO of NITI Aayog, inaugurated the Dialogue and highlighted the strategy for Responsible AI in India. “There must be a robust and reliable enforcement mechanism that protects the safety of citizens, environment, and businesses while promoting equal opportunity for research and innovation”, Mr Kant said. Any mechanism to regulate AI must be proportional to the risk and strike a balance between innovation and responsible use. This requires a holistic understanding of the complex interaction of AI in our daily lives. It goes beyond the scope of just policymakers or technologists, and there is an increasing relevance of multidisciplinary thinking to think through and identify the various ethical ramifications,” Kant added.

Stressing on the significance of AI in the global context and its prospects for humanity, C Raj Kumar, the founding Vice-Chancellor of O P Jindal Global University, said, “Today, we are challenged by a plethora of global issues including the pandemic – a public health crisis, education, poverty, climate change and many more for which UN Sustainable Development Goals have been established to shape a positive trajectory in the evolution of humankind. With AI having the potential to help us overcome these challenges, it is all the more important to deliberate on the implementation of AI in achieving these goals in a more time-efficient manner – but within the context and spectrum of the ethical challenges,” he said.

Leading the discussion on ethics and regulatory frameworks, Bibek Debroy, Chairperson of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister, counseled humility for humanity. “Whenever we talk about ethics, we are talking about laws. Who framed these laws, and do robots understand these laws? In our arrogance, we tend to assume that we have the right to frame these laws and that #AI will automatically accept them.”

He further emphasized whether AI will take over human jobs: “I think the labor-capital choice is a function of relative prices. In a country like India, the relative price of AI will always be higher than the relative price of labor because AI is capital-intensive because AI is technology-intensive. So, in a limited sense, there are some segments where AI can generally substitute for labor, but the labor-capital choice is a relative one.”

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