AI – Humans must be in Command

The European Trade Union Confederation says its aim is "to ensure that the EU is not just a single market for goods and services, but is also a Social Europe, where improving the well being of workers and their families is an equally important priority. The European social model – until the onset of the crisis – helped Europe to become a prosperous, competitive region with high living standards."

The ETUC has published a policy proposal on the development and use of AI under the headline: AI Humans must be in Command.

"AI systems are data-driven technologies" they say. "Access to, and the ownership of, data are the core of AI technologies. Data has created a new business model for companies. However, the boundaries between private and non-private data are thin."

They continue:

Data is sensitive. AI innovations are not per se good and do not per se deliver positive outcomes for society. Access to and processing of data needs regulation for legal certainty and predictability, security and safety, and protection for all. Ethical principles are key. They should form a robust and reliable basis for business, workers and society. Ethical principles should be legally binding. Only under this condition will they provide a level playing field and fair competition. However, one AI regulation cannot fit all situations: consumer protection and worker protection need a differentiated approach.

An ambitious European AI regulatory framework should address the specificity of the workplace.  Humans must be in command. Any AI technology should enable humans remain in control. Workers must be able to opt out from the human-machine. The regulations must specifically address workers’ data protection and privacy and go beyond GDPR.

Digital skills are crucial. Workers need to be empowered and critically aware of what AI technology at work brings. They need to become “AI literate”. GDPR is a powerful tool that trade unions can use to exercise the “right to explanation”. Worker representatives should have a major role in ensuring this right at the workplace.

They conclude

AI needs a legally and empowering European framework based on human rights, public interest at the service of society, for the social and environmental wellbeing and common good. AI technologies will only deliver a fit for purpose innovation, if they comply with the Treaty based precautionary principle.

Open Data

Since the sad decline of RSS, we seem to have returned to newsletters as a major means of exchanging knowledge and information. And I subscribe to a lot - probably too many. I used to have a subscription to MIT's The Algorithm — a weekly artificial intelligence newsletter. And it was pretty good, although perhaps a little US centric. But then it was moved behind a paywall, costing 50 US dollars a year for online access. I don't really understand that MIT is so short of funding that they need subscriptions to fund their production of an online newsletter.

But my weekly data and technology fix is now being fulfilled by the excellent newsletter "The Week in Data", dropping in my email box for free every Friday from the UK Open Data Institute. Not only does it cover open data, from the Institute and the wiser world, but it increasingly focuses on Artificial Intelligence and ethical practice in the development and use of AI. Here are just a couple of items from last Friday's edition.

In keeping with the old adage that ‘prevention is better than cure’, NHS England and the Ada Lovelace Institute are piloting algorithmic impact assessments – with the aim to review any possible societal impacts of AI systems, before the systems are implemented. The trial aims to make sure risks, including algorithmic bias, are mitigated before they are applied to NHS data.

In other positive tech news, The Social Science Research Council has announced the upcoming launch of the Just Tech Platform. The website, highlighting justice and tech research, will include a free-to-use citation database based on an open-source citation library, and will feature leading academics in this field. The launch event on 1 March will feature, among others, Safiya ​​Umoja Noble – author of Algorithms of Oppression and ODI Summit keynote alumna.

To get your free subscription go to the Open Data Institute website.