Symposium on Intercultural Digital Ethics

Ulrich Beck once said that ethics plays the role of a bicycle brake on an intercontinental plane. This, Hagendorff notes, is particularly true of artificial intelligence research.

Not to be deterred by the scale of the task, the Digital Ethics Lab at Oxford University organised a Symposium on Intercultural Digital Ethics on 10 December 2019. SHERPA was represented at this invite-only event by Doris Schroeder, to cover the topic of ethics dumping, i.e. the off-shoring of unethical research practices to countries with weaker regulatory systems.

Amongst a group of excellent speakers, three were particularly inspiring. Shakir Mohamed, a senior researcher for DeepMind was unstoppable in his efforts to rally the group around real-world ethical issues. 4,000 researchers per one million inhabitants in the UK and Germany versus 400 in South Africa and 40 in India. How can equitable partnerships be built under such circumstances? Political manipulation in Nigeria and Kenya by Cambridge Analytica – how can such instances of ethics dumping be avoided in the future?

Vidushi Marda, a lawyer working for Article 19, explained how the Western – Non-Western distinction can be exploited for questionable purposes. For instance, when India started the largest biometric database world-wide without any data protection regulation. When asked whether this is not an invasion of privacy, those building the database replied: “Privacy is a Western concept”.

Kanta Dihal’s first sentence reverberated around the room. “AI is a product of the white male’s imagination”. To illustrate her claim she showed a picture from Westworld, where an old, grey-haired scientist leans into his creation, a beautiful, blond, scarcely clad life-like robot, which looks at him adoringly. Dihal’s Global AI Narratives project tries to unsettle the status-quo to decolonize AI.
The 2019 Human Rights Day was well spent at this Symposium and organisers followed up with an invitation: “We really hope that this will be the start of a longer and deeper conversation on intercultural digital ethics.” Doris will be happy to take this forward for SHERPA.
Author: Prof. Doris Schroeder, UCLan Cyprus