AiTech paper "Designing for Human Rights in AI" published in Big Data & Society

News - 24 August 2020

In the age of big data, companies and governments are increasingly using algorithms to inform hiring decisions, employee management, policing, credit scoring, insurance pricing, and many more aspects of our lives. AI systems can help us make evidence-driven, efficient decisions, but can also confront us with unjustified, discriminatory decisions wrongly assumed to be accurate because they are made automatically and quantitatively. It is becoming evident that these technological developments are consequential to people's fundamental human rights, impacting core values such as human dignity, freedom, equality, and solidarity.

Despite increasing attention to these urgent challenges in recent years, technical solutions are often developed without empirical study of societal context and the critical input of societal stakeholders who are impacted by the technology. On the other hand, calls for more ethically- and socially-aware AI often fail to provide answers for how to proceed beyond stressing the importance of transparency, explainability, and fairness.

In their paper "Designing for Human Rights in AI", AiTech's Evgeni Aizenberg and Jeroen van den Hoven bridge these socio-technical gaps through the framework of Design for Values, drawing on methodologies of Value Sensitive Design and Participatory Design to present a roadmap for proactively engaging societal stakeholders to translate fundamental human rights into context-dependent design choices through a structured, inclusive, and transparent process.

Aizenberg and Van den Hoven argue that Designing for Human Rights is key to achieving innovative interactions between humans and AI in a manner that satisfies stakeholder needs and empowers human dignity, freedom, equality, and solidarity. It can be a challenging path to tread: learning to communicate across disciplines, resolving value tensions between stakeholders, and recognizing that more automation and AI is not always the desired solution. However, the long-term benefits of this approach can be shared both by individuals whose dignity will be held paramount in a changing socio-technical landscape and engineers whose products will enjoy a higher level of acceptance and trust. For more, check out their paper here, now published in the journal Big Data & Society.