We are at a crossroads. The convergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI), big data analytics, and machine learning has rapidly produced some remarkable technologies: voice, face, and odor recognition technologies for precise personal identification; statistical algorithms predicting human behavior and preferences; camera and sensor networks tracking, monitoring, and analyzing human activities; and bots of sufficient sophistication to masquerade as human actors in 280 characters.
With more than 50% of the global population living in non-democratic states, and keeping in mind the disturbing trend to authoritarianism of populist leaders in supposedly democratic countries, it is not hard to think of dystopian AI scenarios related to the future of freedom, privacy, and human rights.
However, when all these digital technologies meet authoritarian governments or powerful private actors (creating business models based on personalized data, not embedded in effective public governance structures for data protection), privacy, human rights, democracy, freedom, and dignity are at stake. Repressive regimes no longer need to rely on the blunt tools of repression, oppression, and suppression , . With unrestricted access to and control of information technology and communication infrastructures it is possible to use these digital instruments to manipulate and shape data collection, information flows, public debate, and public opinion. Now regimes can build surveillance societies , manipulate electoral districts and democratic elections, undermine the independent press and academic freedom, and control and destroy democratic movements and the right to protest.
But AI and digital innovations could also be enablers of a Renewed Humanism in the Digital Age.
Bearing in mind that in 2020 more than 50% of the global population is living in non-democratic states, and keeping in mind the disturbing trend to authoritarianism of populist leaders in supposedly democratic countries, it is easy to develop dystopian scenarios about the destructive potentials of digitalization and AI for the future of freedom, privacy, and human rights. But here it will be argued: this is only half the story, the dark side. The light side is that AI and digital innovations could also be enablers of a Renewed Humanism in the Digital Age.
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