Artificial intelligence (AI) will have an impact on our societies that we hardly imagine. Algorithms are already said to be able to identify the best candidates for a job, assist doctors to establish medical diagnoses or help lawyers before the courts. All this is not entirely new, since already in the 1980s, expert systems assisted humans with a high level of expertise. What is new today is that computers are increasingly able to perform extremely complex tasks independently, but their designers sometimes no longer understand how, what has happened in the “black box” of deep learning.
Therefore, we clearly need regulation to leave essential decision-making to humans and not to mathematical models, whose adequacy and biases are not controlled. The Council of Europe was quick to propose a framework for biomedicine when scientists succeeded in cloning a sheep for the first time in 1996: even today, the Oviedo Convention, opened for signature in 1997, remains the only binding international legal instrument for the protection of human rights in the biomedical field which, by incorporating the principles developed by the European Convention on Human Rights in the field of biology and medicine, prohibits human cloning.
Similarly, machine learning cannot be developed without setting clear limits beyond which the risks of discrimination, infringement of privacy, security or dignity, restriction of freedom of expression or manipulation of opinion become unacceptable. The tech industry and AI designers, with whom we are already in dialogue, are calling for a better link with institutions but we need to go even further, quickly.
As part of the Council of Europe’s Elsinore reform process, the Secretary General will propose to the Committee of Ministers a strategic agenda and to include, by 2028, the issue of AI regulation as one of the major challenges in order to find a fair balance between the benefits of technological progress and the protection of our fundamental values.
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Director, Information Society – Action against Crime