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The Dawn of a New Age: How the AI Revolution Mirrors the Middle Ages and Not an Industrial Revolution [part 2]

The second part of “The Dawn of the New Age: How the AI Revolution Mirrors the Middle Ages and Not an Industrial Revolution”, relates to the observations regarding the revolution that AI is bringing to society and not only to the world of work, proceeds with this further assonance with the Medieval Era (Middle Ages), i.e. after the question of the Data Lords it is also possible to speak of the need for a Magna Carta to regulate AI.

A bit of History…
The Magna Carta, also known as the Great Charter of Liberties, is a historical document of great importance that was issued in England in 1215. This fundamental text represents a turning point in the history of human rights and in the limitation of monarchical power.

The author depicted in the Middle Age – AI Co-Creation workflow by Luciano Ambrosini

Magna Carta was originally drafted to resolve a political crisis between King John of England and a group of nobles dissatisfied with his oppressive policies. The document, written in Latin, contained a series of clauses which limited the powers of the king and guaranteed certain rights and privileges to the nobles.

Among the most important provisions of the Magna Carta were the principles according to which the king was subject to the law, as were his subjects, and could not act arbitrarily. Furthermore, the Magna Carta recognized the right to justice and fairness, guaranteed protection against arbitrary arrest and detention, and stipulated that no free man could be imprisoned without due process.

Although the Magna Carta was originally intended to limit the power of the king and protect the rights of nobles, its significance has expanded over the centuries. The document has become a symbol of individual rights and legal protection against the arbitrary power of the state. It influenced the evolution of constitutional government principles and inspired the birth of many modern constitutions around the world.

It should be emphasized that the Magna Carta of 1215 is not in force in its original text as it has been modified and rewritten several times over the centuries. However, its historical impact and influence on the protection of civil rights and liberties are still recognized and celebrated today.

The Digital Magna Carta: A Call for Rights and Regulations

During the Middle Ages, the Magna Carta was a seminal document that laid the groundwork for modern notions of rights and the rule of law. Today, as AI and data collection practices evolve, there’s a growing call for a ‘Digital Magna Carta’. This would define the rights of individuals in the digital realm, impose limits on the powers of the data lords, and set up mechanisms to ensure accountability and transparency.

During the Middle Ages, the Magna Carta was a seminal document that laid the groundwork for modern notions of rights and the rule of law. Today, as AI and data collection practices evolve, there’s a growing call for a ‘Digital Magna Carta’. This would define the rights of individuals in the digital realm, impose limits on the powers of the data lords, and set up mechanisms to ensure accountability and transparency.

Why do we need a Digital Magna Carta?

The digital revolution has brought unprecedented opportunities and challenges for humanity. On the one hand, digital technologies have enabled us to communicate, collaborate, create, and learn in ways that were unimaginable before. On the other hand, digital technologies have also exposed us to new threats and vulnerabilities, such as cyberattacks, misinformation, surveillance, manipulation, and discrimination. Moreover, digital technologies have created new forms of power and influence, as data has become the most valuable resource in the world. Data is collected, processed, and monetized by a few dominant platforms and corporations, which have enormous control over our personal information, our online behaviour, our social interactions, and our political opinions. These Data Lords have often acted without our “full consent, without our full knowledge, and without our full oversight”.

As digital citizens, we face a dilemma: How can we enjoy the benefits of digital technologies without sacrificing our rights and freedoms? How can we protect our privacy, our dignity, our autonomy, and our democracy in the digital age? How can we ensure that digital technologies are used for good and not for evil? How can we hold the data lords accountable for their actions and decisions?

These are the questions that motivate the call for a Digital Magna Carta. A Digital Magna Carta is a vision of a new social contract between digital citizens and data lords, based on the principles of human rights, democracy, and justice. A Digital Magna Carta is a set of rules and norms that govern the development and use of digital technologies in a way that respects human dignity and values, and that promotes the common good. A Digital Magna Carta is a framework for creating a more fair, inclusive, and sustainable digital society.

What would a Digital Magna Carta look like?

A Digital Magna Carta is not a single document or a fixed blueprint. It is an ongoing process of dialogue and negotiation among various stakeholders, such as governments, civil society organizations, academia, industry, and users. A Digital Magna Carta is also an evolving project that adapts to the changing needs and challenges of the digital era.

However, some possible elements of a Digital Magna Carta could include:

  • A declaration of digital rights: This would affirm the fundamental rights of digital citizens in relation to data and technology, such as the right to privacy, the right to access information, the right to freedom of expression, the right to non-discrimination, the right to participation, and the right to education.
  • A code of digital ethics: This would establish the moral values and principles that guide the design and implementation of digital technologies in a way that respects human dignity and values, such as fairness, transparency, accountability, responsibility, diversity, and solidarity.
  • A charter of digital responsibilities: This would define the duties and obligations of data lords in relation to data and technology, such as ensuring data quality, security, accuracy, and reliability; obtaining informed consent from users; protecting user privacy; preventing harm; respecting user preferences; enabling user control; providing user redress; complying with laws; cooperating with regulators; contributing to social welfare; and supporting innovation.
  • A system of digital governance: This would create the institutional mechanisms and processes that enable the effective regulation and oversight of data and technology, such as independent authorities; participatory platforms; multi-stakeholder forums; audit systems; certification schemes; complaint mechanisms; enforcement measures; sanctions; incentives; education programs; awareness campaigns; research initiatives; best practices; standards; guidelines; codes of conduct; etc.

How can we achieve a Digital Magna Carta?

A Digital Magna Carta is not an easy or quick solution. It requires a collective effort from all actors involved in the digital ecosystem. It also requires a global perspective that recognizes the interdependence and diversity of digital citizens across different countries and regions.

Some possible steps towards achieving a Digital Magna Carta could include:

  • Raising awareness: This involves informing and educating digital citizens about their rights and responsibilities in relation to data and technology. It also involves engaging and empowering digital citizens to participate in shaping their own digital future.
  • Building consensus: This involves fostering dialogue and collaboration among different stakeholders in developing common visions and goals for a Digital Magna Carta. It also involves reconciling and balancing different interests and perspectives among different stakeholders.
  • Creating norms: This involves establishing rules and standards for data and technology that reflect the values and principles of a Digital Magna Carta. It also involves promoting and disseminating best practices and examples of a Digital Magna Carta in action.
  • Enforcing laws: This involves implementing and monitoring the compliance of data and technology with the rules and standards of a Digital Magna Carta. It also involves providing and enforcing remedies and sanctions for violations of a Digital Magna Carta.
  • Reviewing progress: This involves evaluating and measuring the impact and effectiveness of a Digital Magna Carta on the digital society. It also involves updating and revising a Digital Magna Carta in light of new developments and challenges.

A Digital Magna Carta is not a utopian dream. It is a realistic and necessary aspiration for the digital age. A Digital Magna Carta is a way of reclaiming our digital rights and freedoms, and ensuring that data and technology serve humanity and not the other way around. A Digital Magna Carta is a way of creating a more fair, inclusive, and sustainable digital society. A Digital Magna Carta is a way of making history in the digital era.

AI poses significant challenges and risks, such as undermining privacy, discriminating against certain groups, disrupting labour markets, eroding trust, and threatening human dignity. How can we ensure that AI is developed and used in a way that respects human rights and values, and that promotes the common good?

The answer lies in establishing a clear and comprehensive legal framework for AI that balances innovation and protection and fosters trust and accountability. This is the aim of the proposed Artificial Intelligence Act (AIA), which was presented by the European Commission in April 2021. The AIA is a landmark initiative that seeks to regulate AI in the EU based on a risk-based approach, a human-centric perspective, and a democratic oversight mechanism. The AIA is inspired by the principles of the EU trustworthy AI paradigm, which include lawfulness, ethics, and robustness.

The AIA proposes a set of rules that apply to all actors involved in the AI lifecycle, from developers to providers to users. The rules vary depending on the level of risk that an AI system poses to fundamental rights, safety, and democracy. The AIA identifies four categories of risk: unacceptable, high, limited, and minimal. Unacceptable risk refers to AI practices that are prohibited because they violate human dignity or autonomy, such as social scoring or subliminal manipulation. High risk refers to AI systems that are subject to strict requirements before they can be placed on the market or used in the EU, such as biometric identification or critical infrastructure. Limited risk refers to AI systems that are subject to transparency obligations, such as chatbots or deepfakes. Minimal risk refers to AI systems that are subject to no specific rules but are encouraged to follow voluntary codes of conduct, such as video games or spam filters.

The AIA also establishes a governance structure that involves various actors at the national and EU level. The main actors are the national competent authorities, which are responsible for monitoring and enforcing the compliance of AI systems with the AIA; the European Artificial Intelligence Board (EAIB), which is composed of representatives from the national competent authorities and the European Commission, and which provides guidance and advice on the implementation of the AIA; and the European Data Protection Board (EDPB), which ensures consistency with data protection rules. The AIA also envisages the participation of other stakeholders, such as civil society organizations, industry associations, research institutions, and ethical committees.

The AIA is not only a regulatory instrument but also a strategic one. It aims to foster innovation and competitiveness in the EU by creating a single market for AI applications that are safe and lawful. It also aims to promote international cooperation and dialogue on AI governance by setting global standards and best practices. The AIA is thus a visionary proposal that reflects the EU’s values and aspirations for the digital age.

The AIA can be seen as a digital version of the Magna Carta, the famous charter of liberties granted by King John of England in 1215 under pressure from his rebellious barons. The Magna Carta was a milestone in the history of democracy and human rights, as it limited the power of the monarch and recognized the rights of free men. The Magna Carta influenced many subsequent documents, such as the US Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Similarly, the AIA can be a catalyst for creating a global consensus on how to govern AI in a way that respects human dignity and democracy. The AIA is not yet a law, but a draft regulation that needs to be approved by the European Parliament and the Council of the EU before it can enter into force. The legislative process may take several years and may result in changes or amendments to the original proposal. However, the AIA represents a bold and ambitious step towards creating a legal framework for AI that balances innovation and protection and fosters trust and accountability. It is a call for rights and regulations that can shape the future of AI for the benefit of humanity.

The AIA is the proposed Artificial Intelligence Act by the European Commission, which aims to regulate AI in the EU based on a risk-based approach, a human-centric perspective, and a democratic oversight mechanism1The European Commission’s Artificial Intelligence Act. https://hai.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/2021-06/HAI_Issue-Brief_The-European-Commissions-Artificial-Intelligence-Act.pdf. The AIA defines ethics and robustness as two of the principles of the EU trustworthy AI paradigm, which also include lawfulness2EU guidelines on ethics in artificial intelligence: Context and …. https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/BRIE/2019/640163/EPRS_BRI%282019%29640163_EN.pdf.

Ethics refers to the moral values and principles that guide the development and use of AI systems in a way that respects human dignity, autonomy, justice, solidarity, democracy, and diversity. Ethics also implies that AI systems should be aligned with the values and objectives of the EU, such as promoting human rights, social cohesion, environmental sustainability, and economic prosperity. Robustness refers to the technical and operational quality and reliability of AI systems, which should ensure their security, accuracy, resilience, and reproducibility. Robustness also implies that AI systems should be able to cope with errors, uncertainties, adversities, and malicious attacks and that they should perform consistently in those respects throughout their lifecycle3EUR-Lex – 52021PC0206 – EN – EUR-Lex. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:52021PC0206.

Ethics and robustness are interrelated and mutually reinforcing concepts, as they both contribute to building trust and confidence in AI systems among users and society at large. The AIA proposes a set of rules and requirements for high-risk AI systems that aim to ensure their ethics and robustness, as well as their compliance with other existing legal frameworks.

Ensuring the participation of all stakeholders in a Digital Magna Carta

Ensuring the participation of all stakeholders in a Digital Magna Carta is a complex and challenging task, but also a necessary and rewarding one. Stakeholders include not only governments, but also civil society organizations, academia, industry, and users, who have different interests, perspectives, and expertise on digital issues. Participation means not only providing information or consultation but also involving stakeholders in the co-creation and co-decision of digital policies and services.

Some possible ways to ensure the participation of all stakeholders in a Digital Magna Carta are:

  • Establishing a clear and inclusive legal framework for stakeholder participation that defines the rights, duties, and mechanisms for stakeholder involvement in the digital sphere. This could be based on existing principles and standards, such as the OECD Recommendation on Open Government4https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11115-021-00584-8 or the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights5https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/sites/af1b4fa3-en/index.html?itemId=/content/component/af1b4fa3-en.
  • Creating a multi-stakeholder platform or forum that facilitates dialogue and collaboration among different stakeholder groups on digital issues. This could be inspired by existing models, such as the Internet Governance Forum6https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_multistakeholder_governance or the Global Partnership for AI.
  • Developing a participatory methodology or toolkit that guides stakeholders on how to design and implement effective and meaningful participation processes in the digital domain. This could draw from existing resources, such as the OECD Toolkit for Open Government or the World Bank Citizen Engagement Handbook.
  • Providing adequate resources and capacity building for stakeholder participation that enable stakeholders to access information, express their views, and influence decisions on digital matters. This could include financial support, technical assistance, training, education, awareness raising, and feedback mechanisms.
  • Evaluating and monitoring the impact and outcomes of stakeholder participation that measure the quality and effectiveness of participation processes and their contribution to the Digital Magna Carta. This could involve indicators, benchmarks, audits, reviews, and reports.

Stakeholder participation is a key pillar of open government and a vital component of a Digital Magna Carta. By ensuring the participation of all stakeholders in a Digital Magna Carta, we can create a more fair, inclusive, and sustainable digital society.

To be continued…

go to PART 3
PART 3 soon…

References

  • 1
    The European Commission’s Artificial Intelligence Act. https://hai.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/2021-06/HAI_Issue-Brief_The-European-Commissions-Artificial-Intelligence-Act.pdf
  • 2
    EU guidelines on ethics in artificial intelligence: Context and …. https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/BRIE/2019/640163/EPRS_BRI%282019%29640163_EN.pdf
  • 3
    EUR-Lex – 52021PC0206 – EN – EUR-Lex. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:52021PC0206
  • 4
    https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11115-021-00584-8
  • 5
    https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/sites/af1b4fa3-en/index.html?itemId=/content/component/af1b4fa3-en
  • 6
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_multistakeholder_governance
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