We don’t need an AI manifesto — we need a constitution

Article by Vivienne Ming: “Loans drive economic mobility in America, even as they’ve been a historically powerful tool for discrimination. I’ve worked on multiple projects to reduce that bias using AI. What I learnt, however, is that even if an algorithm works exactly as intended, it is still solely designed to optimise the financial returns to the lender who paid for it. The loan application process is already impenetrable to most, and now your hopes for home ownership or small business funding are dying in a 50-millisecond computation…

In law, the right to a lawyer and judicial review are a constitutional guarantee in the US and an established civil right throughout much of the world. These are the foundations of your civil liberties. When algorithms act as an expert witness, testifying against you but immune to cross examination, these rights are not simply eroded — they cease to exist.

People aren’t perfect. Neither ethics training for AI engineers nor legislation by woefully uninformed politicians can change that simple truth. I don’t need to assume that Big Tech chief executives are bad actors or that large companies are malevolent to understand that what is in their self-interest is not always in mine. The framers of the US Constitution recognised this simple truth and sought to leverage human nature for a greater good. The Constitution didn’t simply assume people would always act towards that greater good. Instead it defined a dynamic mechanism — self-interest and the balance of power — that would force compromise and good governance. Its vision of treating people as real actors rather than better angels produced one of the greatest frameworks for governance in history.

Imagine you were offered an AI-powered test for post-partum depression. My company developed that very test and it has the power to change your life, but you may choose not to use it for fear that we might sell the results to data brokers or activist politicians. You have a right to our AI acting solely for your health. It was for this reason I founded an independent non-profit, The Human Trust, that holds all of the data and runs all of the algorithms with sole fiduciary responsibility to you. No mother should have to choose between a life-saving medical test and her civil rights…(More)”.

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