Philosopher Adam Smith is considered the father of modern economics wealth of nations (1776) systematically treats economics as a subfield of ethics. It is clear that economics is closely related to ideas of justice and fairness, and political ideas, and thus ethics, of progress or growth. These ideas define the principles according to which the creation of wealth and resources is permitted. And these principles specify that not everything is easy as long as wealth is produced, regardless of the type of economy that rules the country.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is being hailed as the future of economy and science. Artificial intelligence is one of the technological fields with great potential for innovation, and it is a discipline that can be combined with many scientific fields (biology, medicine, social sciences, linguistics or climate change). Numerous applications have emerged from these discipline junctions used both in public administration and in the industrial field: automation systems for the purpose of simplifying management in justice, behavior prediction in both policing and human resources work, or for assessing a person’s solvency or behavior in leadership. All examples where there is a risk of undermining democratic principles or fundamental rights.
The indiscriminate use of artificial intelligence to solve any problem has transformed this discipline into a space in which pseudoscientific, racist, sexist, and omnipotent theories, endorsed by policies of the same nature, have re-emerged in regimes that oppress poor, black and ethnic people, disabled people, immigrants, and women. Artificial intelligence masks those theories and obscures them with a thick layer of mathematical language that makes it difficult to understand the impact of the systems created. Roha Benjamin, Virginia Eubanks, and Safia Noble vividly describe in their works how these techniques were used to grant hidden privilege to a few. New example that not all innovations are ethical.
It is commendable that the Spanish government once recognized these risks and to counter them, created, in 2020, an AI advisory board whose aim was to “provide independent advice and recommendations on actions to be taken to ensure the safe and ethical use of artificial intelligence,” according to the La Moncloa website. . It was fixed in a coordinated setting in the Ministry of Economy. However, after reviewing the National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence (ENIA), the Advisory Board was not consulted to analyze the “implications of these disruptive technologies in various fields” in most cases, including the agreement between ADIA Laboratory and Sedia (State Minister for Digitization and Artificial Intelligence) To establish its European headquarters in Granada. An agreement that is of great concern, as it contradicts the principles of ethics and security that the Spanish government has committed itself to developing new technologies.
The ADIA laboratory is a science center funded by the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), the richest emirate in the UAE, which began operations in December 2022. Whereas the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, the entity that funds the ADIA laboratory, has assets estimated at approximately $800,000 million. dollars, its investments in Spain may be significant.
In the UAE, science is not independent of government organizations such as the Human Rights Watch document. The government influences personnel decisions and the agenda of research centers, including the ADIA lab. Therefore, Sedia has agreed to a research agenda that focuses, among other things, on developing an economic model of climate change and its mitigation policies, as well as on developing ethical computing infrastructures with a science center funded by a government that does not recognize the independence of science, that tramples on human rights, and does not Particularly women, LGTBQI+ communities and immigrants, whose wealth comes primarily from oil.
In other words, research on climate change will be funded by entities whose wealth comes from fossil fuels, and studies on ethical principles will be funded by a government that questions the dignity and rights of some people. The scientists involved in the ADIA Lab, while recognized in their respective fields, are not experts in ethics, the environment, or law. Sandy Pentland, for example, co-founded Aadhaar, which markets a controversial people identification system that facilitates mass surveillance in India. In summary, the credibility of the results of this collaboration can be compared to the credibility of reports on the effects of tobacco on health previously provided by tobacco companies.
Sedia’s decision ignores ethical principles in economics, in science in general and artificial intelligence in particular. The agreement with the ADIA lab reduces AI ethics to simplistic technical considerations and ignores that ethics in AI also extends to the political context and conditions under which its results are developed and funded.
This alliance will not make Spain a more advanced country in the field of artificial intelligence and does not allow us to assert that it “promotes the development of ethical artificial intelligence”, as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carme Artigas, assured Cadena Ser. This alliance only puts the UAE on the map of European competition and calls into question the credibility that SEDIA claims it wants to promote the ethical development of AI.
For the above reasons, three members of Amnesty International’s advisory board resigned last week. two of them [Ricardo Baeza-Yates y Lorena Jaume-Palasí] the signatories to this letter.
Ricardo Baeza Yeats He is Director of Research at Northeastern University’s Institute for Experimental Artificial Intelligence and a member of several global and US technology policy committees. He is an ACM and IEEE Fellow, as well as an Angela Ruiz Robles National Award Winner. Last Friday he resigned from the government’s artificial intelligence advisory board.
Lorena Jaume Palasi She is an ethicist and founder of several NGOs in the field of technology and ethics. Member of the International Advisory Board of the Commission on the Future of Science and Technology (STOA) of the European Parliament and of the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems. Last Thursday he resigned from the government’s artificial intelligence advisory board.
Ramon Lopez de Mantaras He is one of the pioneers of artificial intelligence in Europe and has been awarded the “Julio Rey Pastor” National Research Award in Mathematics and ICT for his contributions to artificial intelligence.
Carmela Troncoso Assistant Professor and Head of the Security and Privacy Engineering Laboratory (SPRING) at EPFL School of Computer Science and Communications (IC), Switzerland. It is a CNIL-INRIA Award for Privacy Protection (2017).
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